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Brian Flores: Tua Tagovailoa still Dolphins starting QB 'if he's healthy'

The Miami Dolphins played it safe with rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, sitting him during Sunday's 20-3 win over the New York Jets due to a thumb injury suffered during last week's practice.

Tua being inactive came after Flores benched the rookie in the fourth quarter of the Week 11 loss to Denver. Ryan Fitzpatrick started Sunday's win -- his third straight victory as a starter -- and didn't light the world on fire, generating 257 passing yards and two TDs against a woeful Gang Green squad.

Flores insisted that Tagovailoa will be the starter in Week 13 if healthy.

"Yeah, if he's healthy, he's the guy," Flores said, via the team's official transcript. "I don't know how many different ways we have to continue to say that. You keep asking, I'll keep answering the same way. Again, he's dealing with something with the hand. We'll take it day-to-day. He's a tough kid. He wants to be out there. Thankfully, we have other guys who stepped up. We can talk about Tua, but we had 52 other guys who went out there and played their butts off today in all three phases. We were able to get a division win on the road. We're excited to win. We'll enjoy the win and then turn the page and move on to the next opponent, the Bengals."

Tua struggled in his last start, leading to questions about whether the Dolphins' playoff hopes would be in better hands with Fitzpatrick under center. For his part, Flores has never publicly wavered on his decision to move to Tagovailoa.

"We'll see how he does in practice over the course of the week," Flores noted of Tua's injury. "He's a tough kid. It was very close to him being able to go, but we have to make good decisions for him as well. We'll see how he does over the course of this week in practice."

It's possible that Tua's thumb injury lingers, allowing the Dolphins the excuse of keeping Fitzpatrick as the starter without calling it a benching of the rookie.

For his part, Fitzpatrick knows that Tua is the future, and he's ready to support his teammate, regardless of whether that means he'll once again be relegated to a backup role for a potential playoff team.

"I do think that's important and I think just in the quarterback room in general having each other's backs and supporting each other," FitzMagic said. "I think that's very important because it is such a tough position to play. I've now been put in a different role and when my number's called, I'm going to go out there and win games for this team. So Flo (Brian Flores) is the head coach and we listen and respect what he says and we go from there."

The Dolphins sit in the No. 6 seed after Sunday's games, but there is a razor-thin margin for error in a hotly contested AFC. Their Week 13 matchup against Cincinnati is the easiest left on the slate, as Miami finishes with Kansas City, New England, Las Vegas, and Buffalo, all teams in the hunt for a postseason bid.

The decision on Tua, and how it unfolds, will be an intriguing plot to the Dolphins' bid to return to the postseason for the first time since 2016.

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