Tua Tagovailoa Stretchered Off Field After Hit

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 4 - Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was stretchered off the field midway through the second quarter of the team's Thursday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Tagovailoa was spun to the ground on a sack by Josh Tupou, slamming his head in the process and exhibiting a fencing response in his arms and hands afterward. According to NFL's Tom Pelissero, Tagovailoa was officially ruled out with head and neck injuries. Tagovailoa is conscious and has movement in all his extremities, per ESPN's Kimberley A. Martin.

Following his exit, Tagovailoa was replaced by Teddy Bridgewater, who started 14 games for Denver last year. 

Tagovailoa took a similar blow to the head in Week 3's game against the Buffalo Bills. Despite wobbling upon getting up, Tagovailoa was not entered into concussion protocol and eventually returned to play. The NFLPA later launched an investigation into the mid-game concussion check. 


25 comments, Last at 02 Oct 2022, 4:30am

#1 by ImNewAroundThe… // Sep 29, 2022 - 11:22pm

If the narrative around him wasn't already annoying. Coming into his own but that'll reverse course. As if he wasn't crucified enough for every minor mistake. Now this is just out of his control. 

Points: 0

#2 by Mike B. In Va // Sep 30, 2022 - 8:37am

I'm wondering if, given the recent history of the team's ownership and sketchiness, the NFLPA is going to find out the "independent evaluator" is Ross' cousin or something. It's pretty clear he shouldn't have been playing.

Points: 0

#7 by theslothook // Sep 30, 2022 - 12:24pm

I think this is a bigger deal than what it is currently. 

It's worse than malfeasance that Tua was allowed to come back into the game or play this week. I would love to give the NFL the benefit of the doubt but they've lost that years ago. 

Players are young and feel invincible. They don't realize that football is a tiny sliver of their adult lives and they have to live the rest of their years as normal human beings. 

The NFL needs to come under heavy fire over this. 

Points: 0

#8 by Pat // Sep 30, 2022 - 12:37pm

Players are young and feel invincible. They don't realize that football is a tiny sliver of their adult lives and they have to live the rest of their years as normal human beings. 

I don't believe that's true anymore. As soon as Roethlisberger took himself out of a game for concussion symptoms, my opinion on this changed. Everything I've heard from NFL players in more casual settings backs this up, too.

Actually, the most important thing I heard was from Travis Kelce who said that he actively watches for those symptoms because he doesn't want guys out there with concussion symptoms because they won't be able to play their best and be not only a danger to themselves, but others as well.

he NFL needs to come under heavy fire over this. 

The NFL as an organization or the NFL as a concept?

The NFL as an organization is, and was, under heavy fire from the NFLPA. The NFLPA has procedures in place that they believe are sufficient to protect the players. As soon as they saw what happened with Tua last week, they launched an investigation regarding it. That investigation's even more intense at this point.

It's the NFLPA's job to protect the players, and they're doing it. The NFL as a concept (meaning the players, teams, front office, etc.) is reacting exactly as I would want them to. I don't have any opinion on the NFL as an organization yet because it's too early. I do believe the Dolphins should come under heavy fire for this: they're really the ones that should be under the most scrutiny.

Points: 0

#10 by theslothook // Sep 30, 2022 - 1:07pm

I should amend my earlier comment as it came off as spiteful to the NFL.

In reality, the current procedure needs an overhaul because there are two issues at play.

1) players have an incentive to try and pass the protocols. Sure, some don't but many do and the Alex Smith story is not unique, especially to non QB positions who always feel like their career is on the line with respect to playing time

2) per the pff podcast, They mentioned a story from Sam Acho where he passed the test legitimately, but then on his way home forgot where he lived. 

I'm not close to a medical doctor but I have to imagine diagnosing a concussion on the sidelines via a series of questions is probably limited. I remember asking my mom how much she could confidently diagnose from a routine physical and only a routine physical; which was similarly limited unless there were some extreme symptoms. 

Points: 0

#11 by Pat // Sep 30, 2022 - 1:24pm


I'm not close to a medical doctor but I have to imagine diagnosing a concussion on the sidelines via a series of questions is probably limited.

Ha, not according to some of the players. Jason Kelce had to go through the concussion test because he went to the wrong sideline at the end of a series. Not even remotely a concussion situation, he was just too focused and forgot they switched directions across the quarter. So he's sitting there being like "damn I hope I don't fail this and have to sit out because I'm an idiot."

I think it's hard to know what's going on here until the report comes out. I think the overall problem is that they might've brushed off the stumbling too easily. That's an easy situation to address in the rules.

It's also worth noting that Tua was discharged that night and traveled back to Miami. And that's from doctors completely unaffiliated with the NFL. So the other point here is that it's entirely possible that while it looked terrible (and it did) it might've actually not been that bad. I mean, we've seen Patrick Mahomes's knees basically facing completely the wrong way and he comes back in virtually no time.

Again, the fact that the NFLPA immediately launched an investigation is why this doesn't bother me. Accidents happen all the time, it's the response that matters.

Points: 0

#14 by apbadogs // Sep 30, 2022 - 2:49pm

My son had a concussion playing U16 hockey, taken to the ER via ambulance...he was discharged and I drove him home later the same day. That is not unusual. 

Points: 0

#17 by Pat // Sep 30, 2022 - 2:56pm

In reply to by apbadogs

I'm not saying going home with a concussion same night is abnormal, I'm saying that I don't think it was necessarily a life-threatening injury.

Flying's a bit different, though. It's safe to fly but the symptoms can worsen, so it's entirely possible that his symptoms ended up not being that bad afterward once things subsided.

Points: 0

#12 by johonny12 // Sep 30, 2022 - 1:28pm

A lot Dolphin fans are floating the idea the NFL front office won't let Tua get a "third" head injury this season. The PR the would be a disaster for the league. I imagine it will take a lot for Tua to be cleared to play again. I'm moving on assuming Bridgewater is the starter for the next 13 games. Maybe that's pessimistic, but we've seen this end people's NFL careers before. 

Points: 0

#15 by apbadogs // Sep 30, 2022 - 2:49pm

I think you're right...no way he's allowed to come back. 

Points: 0

#4 by johonny12 // Sep 30, 2022 - 9:58am

A promising start for Miami tossed up in the air. I assume Tua won't be back for a while which means the "easier" part of their schedule is now not so easy as Teddy Bridgewater is Teddy Bridgewater. He moved the team some, but seems to process the field way slower than Tua. They will need a healthy Jones and Howard to have any chance now.


The most important thing is Tua's long term health. They have to sit him probably longer than he wants to sit. Tua is feeling more and more like Chad Pennington. Good football guy trapped in a bad Football body. This was such a downer for the whole fanbase. It felt like Tua for the first time had most of the fanbase behind him and this sucked the wind out of everyone. I hate Thursday night football and this game did nothing to change that opinion. Man do I hate Thursday night football.

Points: 0

#6 by theslothook // Sep 30, 2022 - 12:21pm

In reply to by johonny12

Its unfair to Tua, but I legitimately wondered if it wasn't for the best that he just retires. I hope and pray that what happened last night has 0 long term consequences on his later years.

It sucks to say this, but he's made a good amount of money. If the doctor told me that continuing to play after this injury could jeapordize my long term health; I'd walk away. But that's me. I hope Tua gives it a serious consideration if that's what's on the table. Its why, despite my extreme disappointment as a fan, I never blamed Luck or held it against him or thought less of him for walking away. 

Points: 0

#16 by apbadogs // Sep 30, 2022 - 2:52pm

His gruesome hip injury and now the past two weeks ( and who knows how much more damage he's taken)...he might very well be done.

Points: 0

#21 by Drivster // Oct 01, 2022 - 9:50am

...both for his own football aspirations and, selfishly, because I'd like to watch him play some more.

I would recommend changes to the concussion protocol which would reduce/remove the discretion of teams' medical staff in decision making.  

- any player with gross motor instability should be out of that game full stop

- a diagnosed concussion should have a minimum statutory time out associated (n addition to the five steps).  12 days would cover "next week's game" in all possible scheduling circumstances.

- multiple concussions in one season should trigger a "season over" for the affected player.  A "three strikes" model would be easily understood by teams, players and fans.

Points: 0

#25 by TimK // Oct 02, 2022 - 4:30am

Gross motor instability looks like it will be insta-pull ASAP.

Rugby Union has a minimum of 1 week rest period before players can begin a ‘graduated return to play’ (concussion tests must be passed as well) which normally results in players missing 2-3 weeks playing time. They also have additional protocols for players who have more than one concussion a season, or a history of concussions. 

The improved flexibility IR and practice squad should probably continue to be extended as well to give teams easier ways to work around giving players sufficient recovery time. 

Points: 0

#5 by theslothook // Sep 30, 2022 - 12:17pm

Yesterday was a day I felt guilty as a fan. I love defense, I go out of my way to praise defense when I can and I admire the heck out of defenders when they bring physicality to the game. I similarly despise QBs when they bait the refs into throwing flags or try to use their positional status to influence the way defenders have to play.

With all of that said, yesterday was sickening. I felt so guilty in that moment for cheering for a figurative blood bath type of game. And when I saw Tua lying on the field; I truly felt horrible. I know he gets paid millions of dollars, but he's still a person who has a life above and beyond football. At that moment, I didn't care about the game at all and just disconnected from it other than to receive updates on Tua's health. 

It reminds me of something Leigh Steinberg said on a podcast. Paraphrasing, but essentially anyone who thinks QBs are wussies or fake football athletes needs to attend the hall of fame ceremonies where they can watch the older players, including the QBs, gingerly walk up a flight of stairs that you or I would regard as a trivial exercise 

Points: 0

#9 by serutan // Sep 30, 2022 - 1:04pm

The level of stupidity (I'll be charitable and not claim they don't care)  being shown by the Dolphins is mind blowing.  It's like buying a Lamborghini and then running it in demolition derbies.

Points: 0

#18 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 30, 2022 - 3:11pm

It's like buying a Lamborghini and then running it in demolition derbies.

Ahh, the Eddie Griffin.

Points: 0

#13 by apbadogs // Sep 30, 2022 - 2:45pm

I get that these are grown men voluntarily playing a sport and getting paid well...that said as we all know there is NO WAY IN HELL Tua should have been on the field last night after what we saw last week. There is going to be hell to pay, and possible legal ramifications, and firings in the very near future. My son who is a Phyiscal Therapist and Kiniesiology major thinks Tua may never play again. We shall see. But I have always been suspect of a player being cleared to play the next week after a concussion (but Tua had a "back" injury, right). Miami doctors/coaches really messed up here. 

Points: 0

#19 by KnotMe // Sep 30, 2022 - 6:53pm

Well, if doctors were clearing a guy to play when he shouldn't have then they should be fired. Hopefully he has one of those injuries that looks bad when it happens but turns out to not be that serious. (fingers crossed). 

It doesn't seem like a situation where there would be a big push to get him out there again. It's not like they have a 1 year window or something(still wrong then, but at least you can understand where the pressure is comming from). Taking the risk of rushing a guy back in their situation seems stupid and short-sighted. It happens, but it seems weird to happen at this time since they are trying to set themselves up for a longer window. 

Also, Bridgewater is actually pretty decent on the scale of possible backups.  It's gonna be a horror show when the Pats are running out Brian Hoyer. 

It will be interesting how the investigation plays out. 

Points: 0

#20 by TimK // Oct 01, 2022 - 5:08am

Without some evidence that coaches were involving medical conditions I find it hard to blame the coaches. One problem of having independent assessors run tests is that people are then under a lot of pressure to follow those results. This is not to say that I don’t want the independent checks, especially on player health, just that is an individual for any reason has results outside the usual expected range and things are missed or underestimated in severity then an independent assessment saying the player is OK is hard for the coaching staff to overrule, especially if the player wants to play and the less dangerous environment of weekly practice doesn’t show up anything obvious. Hopefully the continued research into concussion and similar issues finds better tests.

I’d be wanting Tua to get serious, precise, scans done to check his upper back and neck for any signs of the various stenosis conditions that can make people more vulnerable to whiplash etc and have ended NFL careers in the past, in addition to the usual concussion effects. He might just be seriously unlucky in having something causing worse problems or slower recovery outside the normal range doctors expect. 


Hopefully the NFLPA investigation, which is a good thing, doesn’t find anything untoward, if it does then all the professional and legal books available should be thrown at those responsible. If however Tua came back on last week (I didn’t see that game at all) and passed all the tests legitimately, and yet was still it is discover later more at risk the following week for whatever reason, then this indicate that the tests need tightening up, and I strongly suspect both the NFLPA and the NFL would act together on this these days (if only because of the terrible optics of not doing so).

Points: 0

#22 by Pat // Oct 01, 2022 - 10:18am

It's also a bit presumptuous to assume that the doctors were wrong, because "obviously" he mustve had a concussion. They're following procedures, and not all concussions are the same. Maybe they look into it, they did everything they're supposed to, and they have to update the protocols to deal with injuries that have less cognitive issues.

In a lot of ways it's just like the rules changes that keep getting made. No horse-collar, no going high or low on a QB, no hits on defenseless receivers: they were all reactionary, not because the NFL is evil, but because you can't anticipate everything. I'd be more worried if everyone was like "nope, no concerns, we have these procedures" but the NFLPA started it's investigation after the previous game, not this one.

Points: 0

#23 by IlluminatusUIUC // Oct 01, 2022 - 2:50pm

They have now fired the Independent doctor who checked Tua during the Bills game, for making "several mistakes"

Oh dear.

Points: 0

#24 by TimK // Oct 02, 2022 - 4:21am

Good that the doctors can be fired like that. Especially as the doctor was apparently fired by the NFLPA without needing the NFL to agree (not that the NFL seems to be disagreeing) but nice to know that NFL & NFLPA both seem able to fire doctors quickly if necessary rather than having to convene meetings about it, or wait till the end of the season or whatever…

Bad that it takes something like the Tua situation to get this far. Maybe there is a way to keep a statistical analysis of the various UNCs and their concussions diagnosis rates (ideally cross referencing against plater injury reports and whether some players are diagnosed post match - which can happen legitimately with concussion) - this could help improve diagnostic methods for concussion perhaps? 

NFL & NFLPA have also reportedly agreed on extending the protocol to keep players who “exhibit gross motor instability” out of games regardless of cause which seems like a simple improvement, and could be officially applied by week 5, and I expect will likely be considered by doctors and teams today as well.


Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support Cale
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and . Use promo code CALE to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip Cale.