Tua Tagovailoa is a little over a week away from learning where he'll be playing professional football.
It should come as a joyful moment in his life, of course, but might also bring some relief. Tagovailoa's hip dislocation has been the top concern about him since the moment he suffered the injury, but his well-documented journey from injury to recovery, rehab and his selection next week has been a long, winding, update-loaded path that will reach a significant milestone when he's picked.
Former Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta can relate. The pass-catcher suffered multiple hip injuries, with the last hip issue ultimately ending his career early in June 2017 after six professional seasons. He explained his perspective on the nature of the uncommon hip injury during an appearance on the RapSheet + Friends Podcast this week.
"It's a unique injury and one that doesn't quite frankly happen to a lot of football players or athletes in general," Pitta said. "Now there's a number of high-profile cases, Bo Jackson being one of them. I think even among current players you have a guy like C.J. Mosley who's done it and obviously he hasn't had any lingering effects from it. I think the difference between myself and those guys is a number of things.
"Now like you mentioned, I am, I guess, a resident expert in hip anatomy now for whatever reason. I've gone through it three times. I've seen doctors all across the country. Some of the best hip doctors that we have. I've talked to a number of people. I know way more about the hip than I ever wanted to know. But as I've tried to recover from three hip injuries and surgeries and all of that, it's obviously been useful information for me."
Pitta returned from two major hip dislocations and fractures to play a full season in 2016 before his final injury ended his career in the summer of 2017.
As for Tagovailoa, he aims to be back in time to play the 2020 season. There are some similarities between Pitta's and Tagovailoa's injuries, too: Both didn't include avascular necrosis, in which blood supply is cut off by the injury and the bone begins to degrade, forcing an eventual hip replacement. This ended Bo Jackson's career early, but because it didn't happen in Pitta's or Tagvailoa's case, they were able to work toward returning.
Pitta, though, ended up fracturing his femoral head in what he thinks was a result of a weakening of his bone, even though he'd been told his blood tests showed no concerns. That worry is what continues to be mentioned in relation to Tagvailoa, despite the quarterback's people believing there isn't any concern about blood issues in reaching his femoral head.
"I think my case is hurting Tua a little bit because people are looking at me and saying, 'Well, listen, he was never the same. He kept reinjuring it and we're nervous that could happen to Tua,'" Pitta said. "And so, I feel bad that's kind of working against him right now, but that's just the reality of the situation. It's tough to say exactly how his hip will respond."
Time will tell, of course, whether Tagovailoa has any additional problems related to his hip. Pitta hopes that doesn't end up being the case and said he'd still spend a high pick on the Alabama signal-caller.
"He's going to have a long time to recover and rehab and make sure everything feels good and he doesn't rush back into playing football again and putting that hip at risk," Pitta said. "I mean, if he's the top quarterback on my board, I'm going to take him high. And (the hip is) really the only potential issue I see for him. He's a great kid, he's got no concerns or red flags anywhere in his character. He's obviously an incredibly productive player and a great talent. So I wish the best for him."