Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa stretchered off field after sustaining concussion vs. Bengals

David Santiago/dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was taken off the field on a stretcher after sustaining a concussion in the second quarter of the team’s 27-15 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium on Thursday night.

Tagovailoa was sacked by defensive tackle Josh Tupou and lay motionless for several minutes after hitting his head on the turf. The Dolphins quickly ruled him out for the remainder of the game with a head and neck injury but said he was conscious and had movement in all his extremities. Tagovailoa was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, about four miles north of Paycor Stadium.

Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said after the game that Tagovailoa is in concussion protocol but would be discharged from the hospital and travel with the team back to Miami after receiving clearance from medical professionals.

McDaniel said as he spoke to Tagovailoa on the field, Tagovailoa was “trying to grasp what was going on” and he could tell Tagovailoa had sustained a concussion.

“What I was worried about was other things on top of that,” McDaniel said. “Obviously I was very worried about his head. But you want to make sure that all things with relation to the spine and back and all that stuff, you want to make sure that’s OK.”

Tagovailoa was questionable to play Thursday after sustaining a back and ankle injury in the Dolphins’ 21-19 win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 3 at Hard Rock Stadium. However, the Dolphins also faced questions about their handling of Tagovailoa’s injury after he hit his head on the ground in the second quarter against the Bills and stumbled upon returning to his feet.

Tagovailoa was taken to the locker room and listed as questionable to return with a head injury but he returned to the game at the start of the second half. He and McDaniel later said it was a back injury — not a head injury — that Tagovailoa sustained against the Bills.

The NFL Players’ Association previously launched an investigation into the Dolphins’ handling of the injury.

“Player health and safety is at the core of the union’s mission,” the NFLPA said in a tweet late Thursday night. “Our concern tonight is for Tua and we hope for a full and speedy recovery. Our investigation into the potential protocol violation is ongoing.”

McDaniel, who on Monday expressed his confidence in the medical staff’s process, defended the team’s decision to play Tagovailoa after the game. He said “five or six different layers of a process and decision-making” led him to feel comfortable with starting Tagovailoa. McDaniel also said Tagovailoa was cleared by an independent neurologist as part of the protocol.

“For me, as long as I’m coaching here,” McDaniel said, “I’m not going to fudge that whole situation. If there’s any sort of inclination that someone has a concussion, they got into concussion protocol and it’s very strict.”

Asked afterward if, in hindsight, there was anything he could have or should have done differently in response to Tagovailoa’s injury against the Bills, McDaniel answered, “Absolutely not.”

“If I would have, that would have been irresponsible in the first place [and] I shouldn’t be in this position,” he said. “... I don’t think an injury from last week made him fall the same way this week. I do not have any, absolutely zero patience for or will ever put a player in position for them to be in harm’s way. That’s not what I’m about at all and no outcome of a game would ever influence me being irresponsible as the head coach of the football team.”

Teddy Bridgewater entered the game at quarterback for the Dolphins and almost led the team to a go-ahead drive before throwing an interception with 3:05 remaining in the game. Bridgewater said there was “a lot going through my mind” when Tagovailoa was injured. Bridgewater is less than a year removed from being carted off the field after hitting his head on the ground against the Bengals as a member of the Denver Broncos last December.

“It’s very scary,” said Bridgewater, a Miami native. “You hear people say injury is a part of the game. That’s the part of the game that sucks. It’s fun to compete, it’s fun to score touchdowns and make plays, but it’s that one side of the game that really sucks, and it’s unfortunate.”