NFL

Dolphins' Tagovailoa taken to hospital after head injury, questions raised about concussion protocol

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa sustained neck and head injuries after being slammed to the ground Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals and was stretchered from the field.

QB appeared to suffer head injury in game just 4 days earlier but was cleared to play Thursday night

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa sustains neck and head injuries after being sacked by Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou during a 27-15 loss on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. (Kareem Elgazzar/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters)

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa sustained neck and head injuries after being slammed to the ground Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals and was taken off the field on a stretcher.

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, but there was no further update.

Tagovailoa was chased down and sacked by six-foot-three, 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 quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is examined after the hit on Thursday night. (Jeff Dean/The Associated Press)

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. He's in the concussion protocol, but he's being discharged.

"It's an emotional moment. It's not a part of the deal you sign up for. His teammates and myself were very concerned, but he got checked out and it's nothing more serious than a concussion."

Teddy Bridgewater, who replaced the injured Tagovailoa, said the Miami sideline went quiet when the starting QB was on the turf.

"Complete silence," Bridgewater said. "He's one of us. At the end of the day, it's only a football game. In that moment, you saw how we feel about Tua. He's our captain. He's our leader. It was great to see the doctors handling the situation."

Reaction came swiftly from around the NFL. Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes and Broncos QB Russell Wilson promptly tweeted with concern for Tagovailoa's well-being.

"Praying for you Tua," Wilson wrote.

Controversial return against Buffalo

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."

NFL executive vice-president Jeff Miller said the review usually takes a week or two.

"Every indication from our perspective is that it was," Miller said about the team and its doctors following concussion protocol on Sunday. "I know the player, the coach and others have spoken to this. And we are engaged in that review now. So we'll come back with a formal answer to that question, something that we want to engage in."

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 eight for 14 for 100 yards and an interception. Bridgewater threw a touchdown pass to Chase Edmonds with 15 seconds left in the half.

Vonn Bell's interception of Bridgewater — the safety's second pick of the night — with three minutes left in the game set up the Bengals' final drive.

Joe Burrow tossed a late two-yard touchdown pass to Hayden Hurst to seal the win for Cincinnati.

Bridgewater threw an incomplete pass on Miami's final drive to turn the ball over on downs with 57 seconds left. He finished 14 for 23 for 193 yards, a touchdown and an interception in relief.

Evan McPherson kicked two fourth-quarter field goals — including a 57-yarder.

Burrow was 20 for 31 for 287 yards and two touchdowns as the Bengals won their second game in five days after dropping the first of the season. Tee Higgins caught seven passes for 124 yards and a TD.

Tyreek Hill paced the Dolphins with 10 catches for 160 yards.

The play of Tagovailoa, who won a national championship at Alabama, has been key for the 3-1 Dolphins. He came into the game second in the NFL with 925 passing yards.

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