By Sam Morris
Sam Morris is from Madison Heights, Michigan, and is an undergraduate student at BGSU majoring in Sports Management. He has a passion for sports writing and journalism. In his free time, he also performs, writes, and produces his own raps for the music industry club at BGSU.
October 11, 2022
NFL and SAFETY
With the NFL being a high-contact sport, there is obviously the potential to incur multiple serious injuries. The league has increased safety measures in many ways over the last few decades, especially when it comes to protecting quarterbacks. These changes include not being able to hit the quarterback in the shoulder-neck-head area once he is sliding, making him defenseless, as well as increasing emphasis on roughing the passer penalties. Despite these improvements, it is impossible to eliminate NFL concussions which are one of the most common injuries in the sport, especially for quarterbacks. It is important that all NFL teams follow the concussion protocol to keep players safe and to maintain the integrity of the league’s rules.
The Miami Dolphins have been accused of not following the concussion protocol regarding their starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa was a star recruit out of the same Honolulu, Hawaii high school as Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota back in 2016. He committed to play college football at Alabama because Nick Saban would be his coach. Tua started off his freshman season as the backup to current Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts. He gained prominence relieving an injured Jalen Hurts in the 2018 CFP title game, leading the Crimson Tide to a victory over the rival Georgia Bulldogs. Tua played two more seasons riddled by injuries before being drafted by Miami with the 5th overall pick in the 2020 draft. Throughout his first 3 seasons with Miami, Tua has been inconsistent and frequently injured. Despite being plagued by injuries and receiving doubt from the media because of his inability to stay on the field, Tua began the 2022-23 season with 2 victories before controversy ensued.
GREGORY ROUSSEAU HIT
During week 2, Miami had already begun to be the talk of the NFL landscape with Tua completing a 28-point comeback against Baltimore and throwing for a franchise record 6 touchdowns in one game. In week 3, however, Tua would be tested against Josh Allen and the Super Bowl favorite Buffalo Bills. With 2 minutes left in the second quarter, and with the scored tied 14-14, on a 2nd and 3, Tua dropped back in a shotgun formation and rolled out of the pocket to throw to former Alabama teammate wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. Tua was tackled by the Bills 2nd year 6 foot 6, 270-pound Defensive End Gregory Rousseau after he got the pass off. Tua ‘s head immediately hit the ground before the rest of his body, and he got up extremely shaky. Tua originally tried to walk back to the huddle for the next play but wobbled in a zig-zag line and was taken out of the game. Tua was said to have gone through concussion protocol by Miami’s medical staff, but he was ruled to have a back problem and was cleared to come back into the game just a few minutes later at the start of the second half. The Dolphins upset the Bills by beating them 21-19 and backup Teddy Bridgewater only played for 2 minutes since Tua was quickly cleared.
Immediately after the Dolphins-Bills game, the reporters at the Dolphins post-game press conference questioned Miami’s process of the concussion protocol. One of the major symptoms of a concussion is balance issues, but this usually only occurs when severe force puts a blow to the head to cause the concussion. This severe force could have come from a man 70 pounds and 6 inches taller than Tua, running full speed, and completely unblocked by the Miami offensive line. First-year head coach Mike McDaniel said in the week 3 post-game press conference when asked why Tua was able to play, “his legs got wobbly because his lower back was completely loose.” Although the back is connected to your balance and equilibrium, it was highly suspicious since Tua hit his head first, but McDaniel and the medical staff described it as a back injury instead.
THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL CONCUSSION
The following week, 4 days later, on Thursday Night Football, against the reigning AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals, the Dolphins were down 6-7 in the 2nd quarter with 6 minutes left and had a 2nd and 7 situation. Tua faked a hand-off to running back Raheem Moshert when the pocket collapsed, and he was sacked and thrown hard to the ground by the 6 foot 3, 340-pound Nose Tackle Josh Tupou. Tupou grabbed Tua by the waist so that his head jerked backward hard and hit the turf immediately with force much greater than in the previous week. Tua eventually had to be carted off the field as his hands and fingers were visibly shaking on camera.
The questions started pouring in from around the sport as two situations that were so similar yielded extremely different results. While both opponents the Dolphins were playing when Tua got injured are playoff caliber teams, the Bills have arguably a more talented roster this year. Although Tua was obviously in more pain with the second injury, critics have begun to accuse the Dolphins of bringing Tua back in the Bills game prematurely to have a better chance of beating their division rivals.
RESULTS AND STANCES
After the Thursday Night game, the neurotrauma consultant in charge of clearing Tua to play was removed by the NFL. While the consultant was hired by the NFL, she is not specifically affiliated with the Dolphins and instead worked with many teams simultaneously around the league. The aftermath of this situation has led to multiple players union and NFL meetings to discuss evaluating the concussion protocol and its steps to clear players to play. It also stands to speculate that the reason the second concussion was so much worse was a direct result of the mistreatment of the previous week’s situation as Tua possibly never got the correct help he needed to heal. After a 10-day rest, Miami was still reporting that Tua would be out for week 5 against the Jets. As for Mike McDaniel, he stood by his previous statement that the Dolphins handled Tua’s medical process correctly.