The NFL Players Association has fired the independent neurotrauma consultant who evaluated Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa after he stumbled off the field against Buffalo last weekend, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Saturday.
The person who confirmed the firing, first reported by Pro Football Talk, spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity as a joint review by the NFL and its players’ union is underway into Tagovailoa’s speedy return to Sunday’s game.
Each game features three independent Neurotrauma Counselors (UNC). They are paid jointly by the league and players’ union to work with team doctors to diagnose concussions. The NFLPA is exercising its right to terminate UNC, which was directly involved in the decision to evict Tagovailoa, who suffered a concussion just four days later in Cincinnati Thursday night.
Tagovailoa initially appeared to be showing concussion symptoms after being hit to the head during the home game against Buffalo, but was cleared to return by a team doctor and UNC. He and the team later explained that his legs were shaky from a back injury.
After Thursday’s strike, when 6-foot-3, 340-pound defenseman Josh Tupou slammed him backwards onto the turf, Tagovailoa’s hands froze and his fingers flexed awkwardly in front of his face mask for a few seconds as he put the turf in cincinnati. He remained on the ground for several minutes before being carried away on a stretcher and taken to a hospital. He was discharged from the hospital and flew home with the team hours later.
It is not known if there is a connection between the two injuries. Concussions are common in the NFL, especially when a player is thrown to the ground by a man Tupou’s size and his head hits the turf.
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel defended the team’s handling of the quarterback’s injury against the Bills when he took a hit from linebacker Matt Milano late in the first half and appeared to hit his head on the turf. Tagovailoa stumbled while getting up and was taken to the dressing room for a check-up, then returned to the game early in the third quarter.
McDaniel reiterated Friday that Tagovailoa was cleaned by multiple shifts of medical workers during that game and said the QB didn’t have a head injury, so he wasn’t on the concussion log ahead of Thursday’s game. McDaniel said Friday there was no timetable for Tagovailoa’s return.
Many observers questioned why Tagovailoa was allowed to return to the field against the Bills.
The league and NFLPA issued a statement saying they had made no conclusions about “medical errors or violations of protocol” while the investigation was ongoing. However, the two added that “modifications are needed…to improve player safety” and that they “expect changes to the (concussion) protocol” in the coming days based on what has been learned so far in the review process. “