The NFL’s approach to concussions and player safety has long been inadequate. The Tua Tagovailoa injury on Thursday might be the ugliest example.
The Miami Dolphins made plenty of headlines this summer, and it was mostly for the wrong reasons. And while fans spent the summer questioning the team’s integrity and overall moral standards, it’s about to get a whole lot worse. It should.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was stretchered off the field on Thursday after sustaining a head injury in the second quarter of the team’s 27-15 loss to the Bengals. Mind you this happened four days after the quarterback was taken to the locker room on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills and listed as questionable to return with another head injury, only to start the second half of that same game.
At the time, many voiced their thoughts, concerns, and frustrations around how the league and its teams continue to fail players’ safety by not taking necessary action. There’s long been abject neglect here in how the league deals with concussions and similar injuries.
Tua Tagovailoa’s injury may be the most egregious example yet.
Let’s go back to the Fins’ 1 p.m. showdown with the Bills on Sunday. Tua got clobbered late in the second quarter, came up wobbly, ran a few yards, then fell back down onto the field. You can see it for yourself here:
He returned even though common sense would tell you he shouldn’t have. The Dolphins say they checked him for a concussion and he did not have one. Later, Dolphins’ head coach Mike McDaniel even had the audacity to say it was a “back and ankle” injury they were concerned about. Not a head injury.
In the few days leading up to Amazon Prime’s third-ever Thursday Night Football telecast, the league announced that it launched an investigation into the Dolphins’ handling on this, while NFL insider Ian Rapoport mentioned it could take “a week or two.”
So, no way he plays on Thursday, right?
Any medical expert would tell you that there was absolutely no reason that Tua should’ve taken the field — in the second half of Week 3 OR in Week 4 — FOUR DAYS LATER.
In fact, one medical expert did warn us about the consequences, and unfortunately, he was right.
But hey, Thursday Night Football: Joe Burrow vs. Tua and the undefeated Dolphins. It’s simply unacceptable that the Dolphins, league, and everyone else involved in this mess let Tua suit up.
And if you were wondering, this is not new for the Miami Dolphins.
The NFLPA issued a statement on Thursday night via Twitter: “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.”
Former QB Ryan Leaf chimed in and called the NFL’s bluff, calling it all a bunch of propaganda.
Tua was cleared using a clearly faulty protocol — one that the league and NFLPA approved. Then, the NFL said it would investigate and that it would take 1-2 weeks. In the meantime, how do you not step in? When McDaniel made the absurd claim that it was a back and ankle injury, why weren’t more questions asked?
The league boasts these beautiful numbers and all this new money it’s making, specifically with Amazon (who showed the replay about as much as Funk Flex replayed ‘Otis’ when it first dropped). If the NFL truly cared about Tua’s health — and not viewership — he would not have stepped foot on that field Thursday night. Simple as that.
The Players’ Association said that will use “every legal option” necessary in investigating how the Dolphins handled concussion protocols the last two games. Go off, NFLPA. But from my perspective, like many others, it’s too late.
What will it take for the NFL to finally get this right? Athletes are humans, just like us, with families and friends who love and need them.
It’s always — not sometimes — always bigger than football.
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