You want to think, you want to hope, that the coaches and team doctors and independent neurologists all did everything right for Tua Tagovailoa.
Because this isn't a game.
If we learn that Tagovailoa shouldn’t have been out there Thursday night, if anyone in any way put him in harm’s way by ignoring warning signs from last weekend in the interest of a football game, someone needs to pay.
And you hope that someone isn’t Tua Tagovailoa.
Game recap: A look back at Dolphins vs. Bengals
As the Dolphins were in the final moments of their first loss of the season, 27-15 to Cincinnati, word came that Tagovailoa was going to be discharged from Cincinnati Medical Center and would be able to fly home with the team overnight.
No one watching when Tagovailoa was subjected to a brutal body slam by defensive tackle Josh Tupou could have expected such positive news. Not when the TV cameras zeroed in on Tagovailoa’s hands, awkwardly contorted in a way that made you wonder if he had dislocated fingers. It turned out that’s a reaction the body can have to the kind of head trauma that forced Tagovailoa to be taken off on a stretcher and whisked away in an ambulance.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 30, 2022
Two injuries to Tua Tagovailoa in a week sound fishy
Had that scene played out in a vacuum, it would have been bad enough. But it didn’t. Only four days prior, we saw Tagovailoa stagger to his feet after a hit against the Buffalo Bills, take a step, then stagger again. Yet after the game Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel and Tagovailoa both said there never was much question it was not a head injury; he was having trouble moving because his back ached.
Your eyes told you otherwise. So did the Dolphins, reporting during the game that Tagovailoa had suffered a head injury. But after clearing concussion protocol, Tagovailoa played the second half and helped lead the team to victory.
Some smelled a rat then.
A lot more believe they smell one now.
You hate to see this for Tua. He has shut up the haters with his play and was battling toe to toe with the vaunted Buffalo Bills and MVP favorite Josh Allen. Praying for his health and for a full recovery from this. pic.twitter.com/1OV8Sq8ocj
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) September 25, 2022
The NFL Players Association already was looking into Incident No. 1 and now will look into Incident No. 2.
That’s bad enough. The real problem: If — key word, if — Incident No. 1 and Incident No. 2 have anything to do with one another, it’s a stain worse than flirting with Tom Brady and Sean Payton. Or, if it was the independent neurologist who got this all wrong, it’s malpractice.
Because it’s flirting with a man’s health.
“This is going to open up a little bit of a hornet’s nest,” Al Michaels said during Amazon Prime’s telecast.
The hornets are buzzing. There’s a small circle of those who ran the tests and saw the readouts and know conclusively whether Tagovailoa had any business being on the field Thursday night. Suffering any kind of concussion is bad. Suffering two in rapid fire isn’t twice as bad; it has been shown to be far worse.
Perhaps it was purely out of concern for Tagovailoa’s back that the Dolphins not only had Teddy Bridgewater at the ready as his usual backup, but rookie Skylar Thompson was dressed for the first time, too, in case he was needed as the new backup if Bridgewater were pressed into duty, which he obviously was.
Bad memories for Teddy Bridgewater
For Bridgewater, the evening brought back memories. Bad ones. He too suffered a concussion and ended up in an ambulance during a game vs. the Bengals.
“You hear people say all injuries are part of the game,” Bridgewater said. “That’s the part of the game that sucks. It’s fun to compete. It’s fun score touchdowns and make plays. But that’s the one side of the game that really sucks. And it’s unfortunate for me. I just think about my son. One day, he’s going to be old enough to use Google. He’s going to Google his dad and he might see his dad getting carted off on the field.”
The NFL can brag all it wants about how it’s committed to player safety. Don’t buy it. It’s committed to printing money. Otherwise, a Dolphins team that needed God knows how many IVs to get through a game 99 hours prior never would have been asked to play a Thursday night game to fill air time. TNF is great for fans, but players? There’s a reason Jevon Holland sounded like he was trying to convince his body he felt fine Tuesday after he admitted that the Buffalo game left him feeling like he’d just jumped off a building.
And while we’re on the subject of protecting players, especially quarterbacks, where was the flag on Tupou for a finishing move worthy of the WWE?
In his postgame news conference, McDaniel reiterated his position from a couple of days prior. That he cares about his players. That he’ll always put their safety above all else.
“As long as I’m the head coach that will never be an issue that you guys have to worry about,” he told reporters after the Bengals game.
Having seen the emotional and compassionate side of McDaniel in the brief time he has been on the job, I believe him.
But all eyes will turn to the investigators summoned by the NFLPA surrounding the events of this past Sunday and now weeding through those buzzing hornets.
Call them the Sept. 25 Commission.
Hal Habib covers the Dolphins for The Post. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Dolphins' Tua Tagovailoa injured again, raising all sorts of questions