On Monday, the Miami Dolphins announced that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol, a jarring announcement after he played the entirety of Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers without apparent injury.
The news raised immediate concerns about Tagovailoa’s health after the Dolphins quarterback was hospitalized in September because of a second head injury in two games. Several ex-NFL players working in media urged the league, the Dolphins and Tagovailoa on Monday to ensure that he doesn’t play again this season.
Former NFL quarterbacks Steve Young and Robert Griffin the III discussed the subject with ex-defensive tackle Booger McFarland on ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown.” All urged more caution in the NFL around head injuries while Griffin and McFarland directly called for Tagovailoa to shut it down.
“Tua Tagovailoa shouldn’t play any more this season if the NFL is serious about health and safety and concussions,” McFarland said.
Griffin, who saw his own career stunted after playing while injured in a playoff game, urged the NFL to prioritize Tagovailoa the person over Tagovailoa the player.
“When we talk about these head injuries, it’s nothing to play with,” Griffin said. “You’ve go to put the person ahead of the player. I’m more concerned about Tua and his longevity with life than I am about whether’s he’s gonna play on Sunday.
“He shouldn’t play for the rest of the season.”
Griffin reiterated his sentiment on social media.
Young didn’t explicitly call for Tagovailoa to end his season. But he did urge for more NFL safeguards while acknowledging the medical challenges that come with evaluating brain injuries.
“The final frontier of medical science is the brain,” Young said. … “We as players do not understand or have any insight into how much risk is involved with our heads. We don’t know, and medical science can’t really tell us. In the end, we’re out there every day risking something we can’t assess.
“So Tua goes jumping back in there. … I recognize how difficult this is for the NFL and how much is at stake. If we’re gonna be serious about it, we have to be able to test somebody pregame, and they ‘re out for the game.”
Young, a Hall of Fame quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, retired in 2000 after repeated concussions raised the specter of permanent brain damage. He’s since frequently advocated for better treatment and awareness of brain injuries in football.
Meanwhile, former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Emmanual Acho joined Griffin and McFarland in calling for the end of Tagovailoa’s season while speaking on FS1.
“You’ve gotta shut Tua down for the season,” Acho said. “Period. No conversation, no discussion, no second thoughts. You’ve got to shut him down for the season. …
“It is better to be safe than to be sorry. The Dolphins have already been sorry once this year.”
In “sorry,” Acho referenced Miami’s Week 4 game against the Cincinnati Bengals that saw Tagovailoa leave the game on a stretcher in a frightening scene that ended with the Dolphins quarterback in the hospital. A second injury to his head in two weeks was the culprit. a week before he sustained what the Dolphins initially assessed as a head injury against the Buffalo Bills before he was cleared to return and finish the game. The NFLPA ultimately fired a doctor who was involved in clearing Tagovailoa to return, and the league has since updated its concussion protocol.
The back of Tagovailoa’s head bounced off the turf that day against the Bills, much like it did on Sunday against the Packers. He was medically cleared the next week to play against the Bengals and ended up in the hospital. Hence the magnified concern about the Dolphins quarterback, who’s now appeared to sustain three head injuries in the course of one NFL season.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins are in the thick of the AFC playoff race with remaining games against the New England Patriots and New York Jets that will determine their postseason standing. Tagovailoa’s status for Sunday against New England was unclear as of Monday.
Pressure will be high for Tagovailoa to play if he’s deemed healthy. But concern about his long-term health could ultimately outweigh it.
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