The single biggest question regarding the 2020 NFL Draft involves a player who might not even see the field in 2020.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will dominate headlines not only in the pre-draft process — including the NFL combine and Alabama Pro Day — but also during the 2020 training camp and beyond. And very little of that will have to do with how well he can throw a football.
Tagovailoa, considered a potential franchise quarterback for whatever team may draft him, suffered a dislocated hip and posterior wall fracture against Mississippi State on Nov. 16, immediately setting off questions of whether he’d be able to have a professional career. All reports indicate he should make a full recovery, but teams will certainly perform their due diligence when examining his injuries.
Here’s everything you need to know about Tagovailoa’s injury, his timeline for recovery and whether he will participate in the NFL combine, Alabama Pro Day or the 2020 season:
NFL MOCK DRAFT 2020: Where will Tua Tagovailoa go?
What is Tua Tagovailoa’s injury?
Tagovailoa suffered a dislocated hip and posterior wall fracture, the former of which is a high-impact injury associated more with car crashes than football. It’s an injury most associate with former Auburn and Raiders running back Bo Jackson, who never played football again after suffering the injury against the Bengals in the 1991 AFC divisional round.
One notable difference between Tagovailoa’s injury and Jackson’s is that Tagovailoa’s hip was immediately treated on site; Jackson reportedly popped his back into place on the sideline — damaging blood vessels in the area — and continued playing on it, resulting in damaged cartilage and avascular necrosis of the hip joint.
Alabama’s team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain said Tagovailoa’s injury was reduced inside Davis Wade Stadium the day of the injury, minimizing the damage.
“Tua Tagovailoa sustained a right hip dislocation that was immediately reduced at the stadium,” Cain said. “He is undergoing further testing to determine the best course of treatment. He is expected to make a full recovery but will miss the remainder of the season.”
It’s worth noting that Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley also suffered a dislocated hip while at Alabama, in the 2012 BCS championship game. He played the next two seasons at Alabama before becoming a first-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. The four-time Pro Bowl linebacker will play his seventh season in 2020.
Tua Tagovailoa at the NFL Combine
The reported recovery timeline for a dislocated hip is 6-8 weeks — three to four months for acetabular fractures — which brings into question whether Tagovailoa will be able to participate in the 2020 NFL Combine or Alabama Pro Day, or even the 2020 season.
Tagovailoa is at the combine in Indianapolis but will not participate in any on-field drills (though he already had his measurements taken). He will interview with several teams — most notably doctors — who will examine him for the first time since he was injured on Nov. 16.
“That’s why I think at the combine, my main focus is to win my medical,” Tagovailoa said on Fox Sports 1 on Jan. 30. “That’s pretty much it. Everyone else is going to be there to win the 40, win the bench press. My main concern is to go over there and win my MRI, win my CT scan there.”
Will he participate in Alabama’s pro day?
Tagovailoa’s agent Leigh Steinberg told AL.com on Jan. 14 that Tagovailoa expects to be healthy enough by April to hold a 40-minute session making 60 to 80 throws in front of NFL scouts. Whether that will happen at Alabama’s pro day (March 24) remains to be seen, though Steinberg said Tagovailoa will hold a separate workout closer to the NFL Draft if that is indeed too early. Round 1 of the NFL Draft takes place on April 23.
Will Tua Tagovailoa be ready to play in the 2020 NFL season?
Several reports indicate Tagovailoa will have overcome his hip injury in time for the 2020 season, though it’s uncertain whether he will play in 2020 (he expressed optimism on Jan. 6 that he would be healthy enough to play).
If Tagovailoa is selected by the Dolphins — the general favorites to draft him — it’s possible they sit him for his rookie season while journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick manages the offense. That would allow Tagovailoa a year to fully integrate into the NFL, learn the playbook and remove any lingering issues with his injury.
Tagovailoa, at the very least, has considered that an option. He told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche on Thursday that he wouldn’t mind learning under a starting NFL quarterback for a year before playing. That was part of a question in which Wyche pressed Tagovailoa to detail which NFL team’s offensive scheme he would best fit in: the Cowboys, who already have a franchise quarterback in Dak Prescott.
“I’m not trying to bump him — I’ll learn under him,” Tagovailoa said of Prescott (via NFL.com). “I’d handle it the way that the coaches there want to handle it. Honestly, I just want to be able to play again. I wouldn’t mind learning under whatever guy that’s the starter. Give me a whole year to rest up and then go back out and compete, but I just want to go back out and play.”
Tua Tagovailoa injury timeline
Tagovailoa’s injury occurred with 3:01 remaining in the first half of Alabama’s Nov. 16 game at Mississippi State. He ran from the pocket and was brought down from behind by two Bulldogs defenders. He laid on the ground and, when he was helped up by training staff, was unable to put any weight on his right leg. He was eventually placed on an injury cart and removed from the field.
After the game, Saban said Tagovailoa’s injury was “a freak thing that you seldom see,” adding he was at least as ready to play as he was against LSU the week prior.
After the game, Aaron Suttles of The Athletic reported Tagovailoa was out for the remainder of the season with a dislocated hip and posterior wall fracture. Alabama later released a statement from Dr. Cain saying Tagovailoa’s hip had been reduced and that he was “expected to make a full recovery.” Alabama’s statement made no mention of a posterior wall fracture.
Sunday following the game, Dr. Cain released another statement saying Tagovailoa would be flown to Houston to undergo surgery on Monday:
“For the past 24 hours our medical team has consulted with multiple orthopedic experts across the country, who specialize in hip injuries and surgeries,” Cain said. “Based on that research, Tua is being flown to Houston (Sunday night) to be evaluated and is scheduled to have hip surgery Monday. As previously stated, we anticipate a full recovery. The main focus has been, and will remain, on Tua, his family, and making sure we are providing them the best medical care possible.”
Dr. Cain provided another update the following Monday, saying Tagovailoa had undergone successful surgery and was resting comfortably. He called Tagovailoa’s prognosis “excellent” and reiterated he expects him to “make a full recovery.”
“Tua underwent successful surgery on his right hip Monday morning in Houston,” Cain said. “The procedure went as planned, and he is resting comfortably. Tua’s prognosis is excellent, and we expect him to make a full recovery. He will return to Tuscaloosa in the next several days to begin his rehab.”
Laura Rutlege later reported that Tagovailoa would be on a “partial weight bearing recovery plan for six weeks” in Tuscaloosa before reportedly resuming athletic activity again after three months; he was expected to resume throwing by spring, which matches the timeline set by Steinberg.
Tagovailoa returned to Tuscaloosa the Friday following his injury. The same day, it was reported the insurance policy he had with the University of Alabama did not include a loss-of-value policy, which would help him recoup millions from following down draft boards.
He was seen walking around on a crutch during the week of Alabama’s Citrus Bowl matchup vs. Michigan. Tagovailoa, along with members of his family and Alabama’s medical staff, met with doctors in New York on Friday, Jan. 4.
On Jan. 6, Tagovailoa told reporters gathered for his NFL draft announcement that he was optimistic he’d be healthy enough to play in the 2020 season. On Jan. 30, he said on ESPN that he and his doctors still expected a full recovery, saying, “Everything looks good. The bone has healed pretty well. … Right now we’re on pace for a full recovery.”
Tagovailoa received his three-month checkup on Feb. 10 — nearly three months after the injury occurred — receiving a CT scan and MRI to check the progression of his injury. According to a report from NFL Insider Ian Rapoport, the scans were as “positive as possible.”
The three-month CT scan for #Bama QB and coveted draft prospect Tua Tagovailoa was as positive as possible, sources say. The fracture has healed. The hip and its range of motion is good. It’ll likely be another month before he’s cleared for football activities, tho, as expected.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 10, 2020
On Monday, video showed Tagovailoa walking at the NFL combine without assistance from a crutch:
Tua Tagovailoa injury updates
Feb. 23 — Tagovailoa arrives in Indianapolis for NFL combine.
Feb. 10 — Tagovailoa receivers three-month checkup on hip; results reported as “positive as possible.”
Jan. 30 — Tagovailoa, at press events at the Super Bowl, tells several outlets he expects full recovery.
Jan. 14 — Tagovailoa’s agent tells AL.com Tagovailoa expects to be healthy enough by April to host separate pro day workout.
Jan. 6 — Tagovailoa declares for the 2020 NFL Draft, saying he feels optimistic he’ll be healthy enough to play in 2020.
Jan. 3 — Tagovailoa, family members and Alabama trainers meet with doctors in New York.
Nov. 22 — Tagovailoa returns to Tuscaloosa.
Nov. 18 — Tagovailoa undergoes “successful” surgery on his hip; Dr. Cain labels his prognosis “excellent.” Rutlege reports Tagovailoa will be on a six-week partial weight-bearing recovery plan, followed by resumed athletic activity. He is expected to be able to throw again by the spring.
Nov. 17 — Tagovailoa is flown to Houston to undergo hip surgery the following day.
Nov. 16 — Tagovailoa suffers a hip injury against Mississippi State. Aaron Suttles of the Athletic reports Tagovailoa has a dislocated hip and posterior wall fracture. In a statement, Alabama orthopedic surgeon Dr. Cain says Tagovailoa is expected to make a full recovery, making no mention of a fracture.