Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) runs for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
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Tua Tagovailoa walked over to Tyreek Hill while the star Miami Dolphins wide receiver was warming up Sunday and told him not to worry.

Hill hadn’t practiced during the week leading up to Sunday’s game against the Jets as he nursed an ankle injury suffered last Monday. Tagovailoa wanted to assure him that the Dolphins would be OK, even if their leading receiver couldn’t suit up.

“I told him, ‘Dude, if you can’t go, we got you, brother. It’s a team sport. It’s going to take all of us,'” Tagovailoa said. “And he said, ‘I appreciate it, but don’t count me out yet.'”

Hill ended up not taking the field in Miami’s 30-0 shutout of the Jets on Sunday, marking the first time he has missed a regular-season game since being traded to Miami from Kansas City last offseason.

Still, the Dolphins recorded 290 yards of total offense. Tagovailoa was 21 of 24 with an 87.5% completion percentage and a 60-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle.

“With not having him and to be able to put 30 points and have a shutout by our defense should tell you a lot about the team,” Tagovailoa said, “really, the guys on all three aspects and three phases of the game.”

Hill had been listed as questionable after he landed awkwardly on his left ankle while being tackled against the Tennessee Titans.

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He went down briefly and grabbed at his left leg. He began limping off the field, then ran off. Hill stood on the sideline with his helmet in his hand as the second quarter started and did not return until there were about six minutes left in the third quarter.

Hill said after that game that he was in a lot of pain and couldn’t move and change directions like he normally would. He leads the NFL with 1,542 yards and 12 touchdowns and entered Week 15 on pace for the first 2,000-yard receiving season in league history.

Coach Mike McDaniel said Sunday that Hill was close to playing, and it was a tough decision to have him sit out.

“It was a collective decision that when you’re faced with, ‘All right, do we press forward and just hope, or do we do the thing that the individual player and the team needs for the season,’ it became easier in the moment,” McDaniel said. “Just because we have the right well-intentioned people that are looking at this as their responsibility to protect players first and foremost.

“I think some decisions are hard, but easy at the same time”

Miami’s offense started the game with a series of short passes, mostly because McDaniel wanted to get a feel for how the Jets defense would play without Hill, Tagovailoa said. He completed nine passes of 13 yards or fewer before connecting with Waddle on a 60-yard touchdown pass that put Miami ahead 17-0.

“This is the first time Tyreek hasn’t played since I’ve been here,” McDaniel said, “so there could be extra unknowns disbursed because you usually have an idea of how people are going to be threatened and how they’re going to really approach the game. There was more unknowns than usual because of that, so there was kind of a feeling-out process that was intentional in the opener to kind of get a grasp as to what was going to go on.”

Waddle also had his most productive game of the season, with 142 yards on eight receptions.


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