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Dolphins decide to make Tua No.1

The Associated Press

MIAMI — Tua Tagovailoa will make his first NFL start next week for the Miami Dolphins, who are turning to him to replace Ryan Fitzpatrick, a person familiar with the team’s decision said Tuesday.

The person confirmed the decision to The Associated Press on condition on anonymity because the Dolphins hadn’t made an announcement.

The change by coach Brian Flores will come after the Dolphins’ bye this week and has been long anticipated, but the timing is surprising because the team won its past two games to improve to 3-3. Tagovailoa will start at home against the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 1.

Tagovailoa made his pro debut in mop-up duty at the end of Miami’s 24-0 victory Sunday over the New York Jets. He will become the 22nd quarterback to start for the Dolphins since Dan Marino retired following the 1999 season.

Touted as a potential franchise quarterback, the dynamic Tagovailoa raises the profile of a team that has been off the NFL radar for much of the past two decades. He was drafted in April with the fifth overall pick — the highest choice Miami has devoted to a QB since Bob Griese in 1967.

Tagovailoa is coming back from a serious hip injury that cut short his Alabama career last November. The recovery slowed his preparation to assume a starting NFL job, as did the coronavirus pandemic that forced the cancellation of offseason drills and exhibition games.

Fitzpatrick, 37, described himself during training camp as a placeholder. He is being benched even though he ranks fifth in the NFL in completion percentage, and the Dolphins are on pace for their highest-scoring season since 1986 at 26.7 points per game.

Tagovailoa went 2 for 2 for 9 yards against the Jets, and after the game spent several minutes sitting alone on the field and on his phone with his parents.

Fame is fleeting

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Two days after scoring a game-winning touchdown in the final minutes, rookie linebacker Tae Crowder was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury by the New York Giants.

The last player taken in the NFL draft and the current Mr. Irrelevant, Crowder scored on a 43-yard fumble return in the final minutes of play to give the Giants a 20-19 win over Washington on Sunday.

Crowder, who had 10 tackles against Washington, will be sidelined at least three games, the first on Thursday night in Philadelphia.

Fans come marching in

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Saints will start having fans in the stands for home games after the mayor agreed with the team on a phased plan starting Sunday against Carolina.

The plan announced Tuesday will start with 3,000 tickets for Sunday’s game, increasing to 6,000 fans for November games with San Francisco and Atlanta and up to 15,000 in December for games against Kansas City and Minnesota barring any changes in local health and safety guidelines.

A limited number of tickets for players, the team and other required NFL obligations also were approved. Both the Saints and the mayor’s office reminded everyone to keep wearing masks and practicing physical distancing and hand washing.

“It is imperative as noted that everyone do their part to make sure all of the progress made by our community in our fight against COVID-19 is not lost and we have no setbacks,” the Saints said in a statement.

“This plan is based on creating a healthy and safe environment for our fans to arrive, enjoy and depart Saints home games safely.”

Mayor LaToya Cantrell agreed with the Saints on the approach after fans were not allowed to attend the first three home games this season. The few hundred in the stands consisted primarily of privately invited family members of players, coaches or staff.

The Saints, who lost a home game to Green Bay, had started talking with LSU about playing at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge to get fans into the stands for their games.

Bears sign ex-ND star

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears signed former Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Teo to their practice squad on Tuesday.

A 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist also known for his internet relationship with a person falsely posing as a woman stricken with leukemia, Teo has made 48 starts and 62 appearances over seven seasons with the then-San Diego Chargers (2013-16) and New Orleans Saints (2017-19). He has 307 tackles — 22 for loss — along with 13 pass breakups and two interceptions.

He takes the practice squad spot of kicker Kai Forbath, signed Tuesday to the Los Angeles Rams’ active roster.

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