Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou (68) reacts after sacking Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) during the game against the Miami Dolphins and the Cincinnati Bengals
Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Negligence By the Miami Dolphins Could've Cost Tua His Career, Or Even His Life

After the NFLPA asked the NFL to open an investigation into the Miami Dolphins' possible violations of concussion protocol in regards to Tua Tagovailoa against the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, it is absolutely asinine that they trotted him back out onto the field for Thursday Night Football in Cincinnati against the Bengals.

A quick recap: Tua hit his head on the turf in Miami at the end of the second quarter. Miami's medical staff sent him back out in the second half, officially citing back problems. Then, the NFLPA asked the NFL to take action. Fast-forward to Thursday night, and the worst-case scenario came true.

Tua was sacked by the Bengals defense, hit his head on the turf, again, and this time it was much, much worse. I can't get the sight of his hands out of my head. The stadium fell silent. We all knew he shouldn't be out there. And our worst nightmares looked like they could be coming true.

Tagovailoa was carted off the field and rushed to a nearby hospital in Cincy. Thankfully, word reached the broadcast that he had regained use of his extremities before the end of halftime. This is an incredible relief, but that doesn't mean he's out of the woods. And yet, Miami is still not saying anything about a head injury. They're saying this is back and neck. Which, sure, it could be that too. But we have essentially watched the young QB sustain severe impact brain damage on live television twice in five days.

The Miami Dolphins are Playing a Dangerous Game

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins sits on the turf during the first half of the game against the Buffalo Bills

Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

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The Dolphins have been accused of tampering with players, offering paid incentives to tank, and treated Brian Flores like a second-class citizen. It was already really bad in Miami, but how they are handling Tua is much, much worse. Miami's actions are a complete disgrace. If it turns out to be true that Miami broke protocol on Sunday in order to get Tua back on the field, they put the well-being of their star quarterback in danger.

The NFL has been able to find ways to sweep the CTE conversations under the rug. Remember that? Nobody is talking about it at anywhere close to the frequency as we were five years ago. This spells bad news for the NFL, and some potential catastrophic news for the Miami Dolphins. Because in the midst of what is otherwise a successful season on the field, the Dolphins organization and medical staff has decided that winning is more important than a person's life.

"If" the Dolphins covered up a concussion the first time, it's going to be hard to keep that narrative going now. No matter how hard baby genius Mike McDaniel and his medical staff seem to try. Sustaining multiple significant concussions in a five-day period isn't just going to force someone to miss time. It has the potential to be life-threatening. And, not that we should be surprised, but the Miami Dolphins have put the need to win ahead of human life. This whole situation is nothing short of disgusting.

It was then reported that Tua would be released and travel back to Miami with the team. But, if true, that's even further gross negligence. Aren't you not supposed to fly with a concussion? And if this somehow, someway isn't a concussion, a severe head injury, then what on earth could it be?

The question now becomes what is the NFL going to do? Surely, they need to have a deep look inward, and figure out how to do the right thing. As does the NFLPA. The NFLPA put out a statement on Twitter.

I have my own thoughts and feelings on this, because if they truly cared they would have drawn a line in the sand and protected Tua from ever having to take the field in Cincinnati. But the most poignant responses to this from other players come from former quarterback Ryan Leaf and Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz. Leaf's response is explicit and straight to the point.

The response from Schwartz puts a whole other aspect of the NFL and NFLPA's negligence under a microscope.

And then we have tweets like this, from NJ Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr., which continue to put into light the lack of action and carelessness toward head injuries by the NFL. I apologize in advance for the video of the incident itself in this tweet. It's incredibly hard to watch.

NFL and NFLPA Policy To Enforce Concussion Protocol

Goodell makes an annoucement during the NFL Draft

Photo by Richard Schultz/NFLPhotoLibrary

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In one of my text chains, a friend sent over a screenshot of a memo sent by the NFL a few years ago announcing a joint policy with the NFLPA to enforce concussion protocol. So I had a look and was shocked that I was shocked by what I read. Let's hone in on this specific part of the memo.

As jointly agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA, the Commissioner retains absolute discretion in determining penalties for violations of the concussion protocol. Potential disciplinary action includes:

  • A first violation will require the club employees or medical team members involved to attend remedial education; and/or result in a maximum fine of $150,000 against the club.
  • Second and subsequent violations of the concussion protocol will result in a minimum fine of $100,000 against the club.
  • In the event the parties agree that a violation involved aggravating circumstances, the club shall be subject, in the first instance, to a fine no less than $50,000. The Commissioner shall determine appropriate discipline for subsequent violations involving aggravating circumstances.
  • In the event that the Commissioner determines that the club's medical team failed to follow the protocol due to competitive considerations, the Commissioner may require the club to forfeit draft pick(s) and impose additional fines exceeding those amounts set forth above.

Tell me how a second violation is somehow a lower fine than the first. And, when absolute minimum salary that can be paid to a player in 2022 is $705,000, what is $150,000 but an accidental static electric shock? It hits you for a brief moment, you shake it off, and you go about your day forgetting it even happened. The Dolphins were offering coaches $100,000 to lose games. This doesn't feel like a fine so much as it is the cost of doing business.

However it's the fourth bullet here that gets me intrigued about what could happen. It's clear, without a shadow of a doubt, the Dolphins have wholly mismanaged this situation — whether you agree that Tua may have had a concussion on Sunday or not. They have a serviceable backup; they could have simply sent out Teddy Bridgewater, put Tua into protocol, and then put him back out as the field general in Week 5. But, instead, they put the man's life at risk.

Don't believe me? Here's some reading material on Second Impact Syndrome.

So will Roger Goodell assess this situation and concur with public opinion, and the opinion of a seemingly high number of healthcare professionals, that Miami put Tua at risk and violated these protocols? And, if so, will he forfeit draft picks? Institute fines? Suspensions for staff? Or will he let things play out until it's too late?

To date, the NFL hasn't proven it is toothless when it comes to consequences of violating protocols that are supposed to protect its players. And the NFLPA will bang the drum that they're trying to take care of their own without actually taking proper action. But they'll do things that validate Mitchell Schwartz' point.

It's long past time for action, and an example needs to be made out of the Miami Dolphins. If Tua's family hasn't already started the paperwork to file a lawsuit for negligence, reckless endangerment or whatever else they legally have a case for, they should. The Dolphins should forfeit all draft picks in 2023, and maybe a number beyond then, too. They should be forced to forfeit games in the season, but still need to pay players all incentive-based bonuses, including playoffs that the team should now not be allowed to take part in.

Actually, no. That's not even good enough. They put a man's life at risk here. People need to be fired and investigated by authorities. What the Miami Dolphins have done is criminal. And it must be treated as such.

Football is a Violent Sport. We Know That.

Wide receiver Vincent Jackson #83 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stands on the sidelines against the Tennessee Titans, Junior Seau of the San Diego Chargers prepares for a game against the Kansas City Chiefs

Left: Photo by Cliff McBride/Getty Images, Right: Photo by Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images

At what point do we actually put the health and well being of HUMANS ahead of entertainment and sport? This isn't ancient Rome. NFL players are not gladiators. But the NFL will continue to paint whatever narrative it wants. They will allow racism, blackball and shun those who protest police brutality, allow those who sexually assault women to play, and put the good guys in legitimate danger.

So maybe that makes us numb to a lot of what theses guys go through. If Tua Tagovailoa takes the field for the Dolphins in New York on Sunday, October 9, it's time to begin questioning the league's entire approach to health and safety. We've seen the long term effects this game can have on people. Junior Seau and Vincent Jackson, among others, lost their lives to brain-related injuries they gained from the game of football. We're better than this. The NFL and NFLPA should be better than this.

MORE: Junior Seau Left Behind A Legacy That His Family Continues to Carry Today