Analysis: Maybe the Dolphins did wrong by Tua Tagovailoa, but the NFL’s concussion protocols have too many loopholes
CINCINNATI — Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa sustained neck and head injuries after being slammed to the ground Thursday night against the Bengals and was stretchered from the field.
The Dolphins said Tagovailoa was conscious, had movement in all his extremities and was taken to University of Cincinnati Medical Center for further evaluation. The Dolphins said after their 27-15 loss to the Bengals that Tagovailoa was expected to be released from the hospital and fly home with the team.
Tagovailoa was chased down and sacked by 6-foot-3-inch, 340-pound Josh Tupou with about six minutes left in the first half. He was spun around and thrown to the turf. While on the ground, his hands froze in front of his face. He remained down for more than seven minutes before being loaded on a backboard, stabilized and strapped to a stretcher after his facemask was removed.
Dolphins players gathered around as Tagovailoa was rolled off the field and the crowd chanted “Tua! Tua!”
Miami coach Mike McDaniel said Tagovailoa called for him when he went down.
“I could tell it wasn’t the same guy that I was used to seeing,” McDaniel said. “It was a scary moment. He was evaluated for a concussion and he’s in the concussion protocol.”
Bengals coach Zac Taylor had an emotional reaction to Tagovailoa going down, saying: “It’s a heavy moment. You hate to see that happen. It’s a tough moment for everybody.”
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow hoped Tagovailoa makes a quick return.
“It’s always scary when somebody goes out like that,” Burrow said. “It’s a dangerous game and something like that can happen at any time, but it’s always scary when it does. Hopefully, he has a speedy recovery. I’m gonna text him after a bit and see how he’s doing.”
Reaction came swiftly from around the NFL. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Broncos QB Russell Wilson promptly tweeted with concern for Tagovailoa’s well-being.
“Praying for you Tua,” Wilson wrote.
The 24-year-old Tagovailoa was suffering from a sore back and was listed as questionable for most of the week ahead of the game.
Tagovailoa briefly left Sunday’s 21-19 victory over the Buffalo Bills after appearing to be disoriented by what the team originally said was a head injury after taking a hard hit from Bills linebacker Matt Milano late in the first half. He missed just three snaps and returned after halftime, a decision that prompted a joint review by the NFL and National Football League Players Association of what went into the decision to allow him to return to the game.
The team and Tagovailoa said after Sunday’s game the quarterback had a back injury that caused his awkward stumble and fall after he was slammed into the turf in the second quarter. The team said Monday that Tagovailoa was not in concussion protocol.
He said he “hyper-extended” his back after getting his legs caught under someone on a quarterback sneak.
McDaniel said Thursday that he didn’t think an injury from last week made him fall the same way this week.
After Tagovailoa’s injury Thursday, the NFLPA tweeted: “Player health and safety is at the core of the union’s mission. Our concern tonight is for Tua and we hope for a full and speedy recovery. Our investigation into the potential protocol violation is ongoing.”
Some criticized the decision to play Tagovailoa so soon after his injuries in Sunday’s game.
Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe tweeted: “That’s a serious injury . Tua shouldn’t have been out there with Sunday Thursday turn around. Sometimes players need protecting from themselves. Dolphins failed Tua.”
Before leaving Thursday’s game, Tagovailoa was 8 for 14 for 100 yards and an interception. He was replaced in the game by Teddy Bridgewater, who threw a touchdown pass to Chase Edmonds with 15 seconds left in the half.