UPDATE: According to his agent David Canter, the MCL/ACL tear may not be a tear after all. They will know more on Friday and if “Tui” does not have a tear, he is looking at a 6-8 week recovery.
UPDATE: A clause in Aaitui’s contract allowed the Jets to release him with no injury settlement or responsibility.
It would be a safe guess that most fans never heard of Isaako Aaitui until last night’s episode of Hard Knocks. Other may have heard rumblings about a young up and coming DT that was turning heads throughout camp. Then the hard to spell and harder to pronounce defensive tackle was released by the Phins in their cuts to 53. Last night we learned that the Dolphins defensive line coach, Kacey Rodgers would “hit the table” for this kid.
The Dolphins released Aaitui and for the first time we got to see the disappointment on his face after the final episode covered quite a bit of who he is. It was hard not to like what you saw. Jeff Ireland sat him down and told that yes, he indeed was being cut but that they wanted him on the practice squad. Ireland talked about having those “skill sets” that make guys like Aaitui NFL football players.
Ireland explained the process that would unfold. He would be released, then have to clear waivers and then the team would bring him back to the practice squad. Before the episode ended, we learned that Aaitui was claimed by the Jets. Something we all already knew on Saturday. All of the above was the story we didn’t know. We didn’t know just how high he was on the Dolphins list and how close he came to making the final 53 man roster. It’s those tough bottom decisions that can change the course of the future for a kid trying to break into the game and a team looking to hold on to players they think are not quite ready but show enough to believe in them.
For Aaitui, the road to NY was a short one and we learned yesterday that he was cut by the NY Jets. First thought was the Dolphins would bring him back in to the mix in Miami and someone was about to get bumped from the practice squad. A quick turnaround in NY for a guy who showed so much potential. As the title says, his story doesn’t end happy with a return to Miami.
In is first practice with the Jets, Aaitui tore his ACL and MCL. The injury will sideline Aaitui for the year but the bigger question regards his future. With no NFL team to report to, his rehab is now his responsibility. Both financially and personally. With a young girlfriend at home and kids, his dream of playing football at this level may have come to a final conclusion in New York.
Accidents in the NFL happen all the time and one has to wonder what would happen if fate doesn’t step in here and there. Would the injury still have occurred if he was kept in Miami? It really is not important or even relevant. But a young man is looking at a long road ahead of him after coming so close to realizing his dreams. One decision, one more tackle, one more player showing just a bit less and Isaako Aaitui may have remained in Miami. That’s how quickly things change and how a great story comes to a sad conclusion.
Good luck Aaitui, hopefully this won’t be the last anyone hears about you.