Tua Tagovailoa hit his head. Turns out, his back was the bigger issue. Either way, he was cleared to return and played through it all.
Tagovailoa briefly left Sunday’s 21-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills, returning despite appearing to be disoriented by what the team originally said was a head injury. He missed Miami’s last three snaps of the first half, then returned and played the rest of the way as the Dolphins became the AFC’s last unbeaten team by knocking off the Bills.
“I was kind of with everyone else. When he hit his head on the ground, I assumed it was a head injury,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “But his legs got wobbly because his lower back was completely loose. And as he described it, he said his lower back was like Gumby or something.”
Tagovailoa completed 13 of 18 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown for the Dolphins. Where his day nearly went awry wasn’t on a late hit by Buffalo’s Matt Milano, he says, but rather on a play earlier where Tagovailoa got bent awkwardly.
“I kind of got my legs caught under someone and they were trying to push back and it kind of felt like I hyperextended my back or something,” Tagovailoa said. “Then on the next play, I kind of hit my back, it kind of hurt, and I got up and that’s why I stumbled — my back kind of locked up on me.”
Tagovailoa’s return raised some questions. A person with knowledge of the matter said after the game that there will be a joint review by the NFL and the National Football League Players Association of what went into the decision to allow Tagovailoa to return to the game. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because that probe was not revealed publicly.
By NFL rule, those in-game evaluations when concussions are suspected involve not just team medical personnel, but also an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant.
Tagovailoa wasn’t the only quarterback banged up during the Bills-Dolphins game, one played in 90-degree heat that felt even hotter when factoring in 57 percent humidity. Buffalo’s Josh Allen needed an X-ray after the game on his right hand, after he hit it on a helmet or face mask — he wasn’t sure — in the final moments.
Allen didn’t have any protection on his hand after emerging from the X-ray room.
“I’m fine,” he insisted, after a 42-for-63, 400-yard, two-touchdown day.
Tagovailoa was facing a third-and-3 play from the Miami 21 late in the half when he scrambled and found Jaylen Waddle for an 8-yard gain. After releasing the ball, Tagovailoa got hit — a two-hand push in the chest — by Milano, who was flagged for roughing the passer.
Tagovailoa fell backward, the back of his helmet bouncing off the grass. He remained down for a few seconds, then rolled to his feet, jogged forward a few steps, and stumbled to the ground again briefly.
A pair of offensive linemen held him up at that point, ensuring he wouldn’t fall again, and Dolphins’ medical personnel ran onto the field to check him further. They walked him directly into the tunnel leading to the Miami locker room area.
“I’m good,” Tagovailoa said. “Passed whatever concussion protocol they had, so I’m good.”
On the first play of the second half, Tagovailoa found Tyreek Hill for a 22-yard gain and showed no ill effects from the hit. And when the Dolphins got the go-ahead score on a run by Chase Edmonds midway through the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa leaped into the air — again, not looking too limited.
He wore a wrap around his back after the game and will likely face tons of treatment in the days ahead. It’s a short week for Miami, which plays at Cincinnati on Thursday.
Rihanna gets Super Bowl halftime nod
Rihanna, who declined to perform in the 2019 Super Bowl halftime show out of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, will headline the 2023 game, the NFL announced Sunday along with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and Apple Music. Rihanna posted an image on Instagram of an arm outstretched holding an NFL football.
“Rihanna is a generational talent, a woman of humble beginnings who has surpassed expectations at every turn," said Jay-Z, whose Roc Nation is an executive producer of the show, in a statement. “A person born on the small island of Barbados who became one of the most prominent artists ever. Self-made in business and entertainment.”
The Super Bowl will take place at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 12. After years of Pepsi’s sponsorship, the upcoming halftime show will be sponsored by Apple Music.
Rihanna earlier said she turned down a similar opportunity for the 2019 Super Bowl that was ultimately headlined by Maroon 5. At the time, many artists voiced support for Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who protested police brutality against Black people and minorities by kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.
“I couldn’t dare do that. For what? Who gains from that? Not my people. I just couldn’t be a sellout. I couldn’t be an enabler,” Rihanna told Vogue in 2019. “There’s things within that organization that I do not agree with at all, and I was not about to go and be of service to them in any way,” she said of the league.
Kaepernick accused the NFL of colluding to keep him out of the league in a case that was eventually settled in early 2019.
With sales of more than 250 million records worldwide, Rihanna ranks as one of the best-selling female artists ever. Her last album was 2016′s “Anti,” and she last performed publicly at the Grammy Awards in 2018. Earlier this year, she had her first child with the rapper ASAP Rocky.
Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook injures shoulder
⋅ Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook injured his shoulder late in the third quarter of his team’s victory over Detroit. Cook had 17 carries for a season-high 96 yards and his first touchdown of the year, but on a first-down run near midfield he ran into the back of his left guard Ezra Cleveland and had the ball fly out of his arms and recovered by the Lions.
Whether Cook was hurt in the collision or in the pile during the scrum for the fumble was unclear, but he immediately grabbed his left arm in pain and jogged off the field for further examination. Cook has had shoulder injuries in the past, forcing him to sit out one game in 2021 and two games in 2019. He has never missed fewer than two games in any of his first five years in the NFL.
Afterward, Cook told coach Kevin O’Connell he planned to play next week in London against New Orleans.
⋅ Denver first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett has lured longtime NFL assistant coach Jerry Rosburg out of retirement to help him make better decisions during games. Rosburg, 66, agreed to join Hackett’s staff after observing practice during the week and meeting with quarterback Russell Wilson and others in the organization.
His first game in the booth was Sunday night’s 11-10 win over the 49ers, and followed several operational miscues by Denver’s rookie head coach and multiple communication breakdowns on his staff in the first two weeks of the season.
⋅ Amon-Ra St. Brown’s streak for Detroit of eight straight games with at least eight receptions, tied for the longest in league history, was stopped. His run began last Dec. 5 in the win over Minnesota. St. Brown had six catches for 73 yards.
⋅ The Atlanta-Seattle game was stopped with 6:42 left in the fourth quarter for about five minutes, apparently because of a drone flying in the area around Lumen Field. Players were sent to the sidelines before the game resumed. There was also a brief delay because of a drone during Saturday night’s game between Washington and Stanford across town.
⋅ The Jets inducted two-time All-Pro center Nick Mangold into their Ring of Honor. The seven-time Pro Bowl selection, who spent all 11 of his NFL seasons with New York, closed his halftime speech by cracking open a beer and toasting the fans.