It Sure Seems Like Miami Let QB Tua Tagovailoa Play Through a Concussion

The Dolphins are saying Tagovailoa was unsteady on his feet due to an injury to his back, not his head

Tua Tagovailoa on the turf during the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills. It's unclear if Tagovailoa suffered a concussion during the game.
Tua Tagovailoa looked pretty woozy against the Buffalo Bills.
Megan Briggs/Getty

As one of three undefeated teams in the NFL (along with the Eagles and Giants) following an upset win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, the Miami Dolphins and third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa are starting to garner a lot of attention from the rest of the league.

Given what possibly went down in Sunday’s 21-19 victory over the Bills, Miami may not want that attention as it could be determined that the Dolphins allowed Tagovailoa to return in the win against Buffalo after he suffered a concussion.

Facing a third-and-3 play from his own 21 late in the first half, Tagovailoa was able to hit Jaylen Waddle for an 8-yard gain before he was hit late by Buffalo linebacker Matt Milano, who was flagged for roughing the passer. As a result of the hit, Tagovailoa went to the ground and clearly hit the back of his head on the turf. When he tried to clear the cobwebs and walk it off, the 24-year-old appeared to be disoriented and was replaced for the last three snaps of the first half because he had suffered what the team initially said was a head injury. However, Tagovailoa was back in the game after halftime and played the rest of the way in Miami’s win.

Many people watching the game felt there was something fishy about how the Dolphins handled the situation and there will now be a joint review by the NFL and the National Football League Players Association about how it was determined that Tagovailoa could to return to the game, according to the Associated Press.

Per the league’s concussion protocol, a player who appears to have suffered “gross motor instability” cannot return to a game if the “team physician, in consultation with the sideline UNC (unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant), determines the instability to be neurologically caused.” 

Speaking after the game, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said Tagovailoa’s instability was caused by a hit to his back, not his head. “I was kind of with everyone else. When he hit his head on the ground, I assumed it was a head injury,” 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.”

The Dolphins, like many NFL teams, if not all, are clearly fine with playing a bit fast and loose with league rules so it would not be surprising at all if Tagovailoa was cleared for action even though he was concussed. What would be surprising is if the investigation into the matter actually finds Miami guilty of any wrongdoing as the NFL certainly wants Tagovailoa on the field playing for one of the league’s last undefeated teams.

Whatever happens with the investigation and Tagovailoa’s ailments, the Dolphins have only a few days to get ready for Week 4 as they have a matchup with the Bengals looming on Thursday Night Football. As of now, expect to see Tagovailo on TNF.

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