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A risky pick? Tua Tagovailoa confident he’ll be healthy and productive in NFL

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa throws a pass against LSU.
Tua Tagovailoa showed at Alabama he can excel in big games, but questions about the quarterback’s injury history have drawn extra scrutiny from NFL teams.
(Todd Kirkland / Getty Images)

The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

Tua Tagovailoa did not participate in any football activities, agility drills or weight-training sessions at the NFL combine in February, but the Alabama quarterback still had at least one grueling day in Indianapolis.

“We went to the hospital at 10 a.m., and I was the last person to leave,” Tagovailoa said after being poked and prodded during a full day of medical examinations and diagnostic tests. “I didn’t get back until 7:49 p.m.”

Many scouts believe Tagovailoa, who as a freshman led Alabama to a 26-23 come-from-behind win over Georgia in the 2017 national championship game, has the physical skills and big-game experience to be a difference-maker in the NFL.

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The 6-foot, 217-pound left-hander is a dual-threat quarterback with the speed, agility, accuracy and touch to create plays through the air and on the ground. Though he thrived in a run-pass-option offense at Alabama, he would fit in a pro-style attack filled with play-action plays and roll-outs.

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In three seasons with the Crimson Tide, Tagovailoa completed 474 of 684 passes (69.3%) for 7,442 yards, 87 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and rushed 107 times for 340 yards and nine touchdowns.

The Hawaii native won the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year awards and was named SEC offensive player of the year in 2018, which ended with a 44-16 national title game loss to Clemson. He has been heavily linked with the Miami Dolphins, who pick fifth in the draft.

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But there are durability issues with Tagovailoa, who needed surgery to repair high-ankle sprains in 2018 and 2019 and suffered a season-ending hip dislocation in 2019. The latter injury, incurred in a Nov. 16 game against Mississippi, required surgery and has clouded Tagovailoa’s future as a pro.

There were rumors that Tagovailoa failed physicals with two teams, but Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that “Tagovailoa received overwhelmingly positive reports on his dislocated hip from teams that examined him. The MRIs were as clean as hoped, the fracture is healed, there is no loss of blood flow.”

The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the 2020 NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

Tagovailoa said he passed his four-month check-in with doctors on March 9 and was able to resume football activities. Later that month, he posted a video of himself throwing a football.

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“Mentally, the rehab process has been a grind … just strengthening all the parts around the hip, the glute, hamstring and quadriceps,” Tagovailoa said at the combine. “But [the medicals] were all positive. I’ll be ready to go.”

Newport Beach-based agent Leigh Steinberg said in an April 9 radio interview that doctors “have been very clear that Tua’s health is fine. There’s no recurrence that’s going to happen here.

“The health concerns are overblown. We’re not playing croquet here. He checks out fine with the doctors who have spent time with him since the combine.”


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