MIAMI — Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel isn’t ignoring criticism surrounding the way quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was treated after an apparent head injury against the Bills on Sept. 25; he knows people’s opinions.
But he says he doesn’t think too much about it.
Speaking to local media on Wednesday, McDaniel said any skepticism over whether he or the Dolphins were negligent in allowing Tagovailoa to play against the Cincinnati Bengals, four days after suffering the apparent head injury against the Bills, would be “collapsed” if he came from the people he serves. Anything outside of the Dolphins building, he said, is also out of his control.
“It’s all reactionary anyway,” he said. “So if people want [give their opinion], no matter. … If I spend time thinking about it, let’s say Monday night for five seconds – that’s five seconds that I don’t think about all the other things about the team and the game ahead.
“I have way too much respect for the game, for everyone involved, for everyone who relies on me, I mean, I’m actually the anti-TO [Terrell Owens]. You know, “speak good about me, talk bad about me, just talk about me” – I’d be cool if nobody talked about anything. This is how I have operated throughout my career. But [I’m] expecting them to have all kinds of opinions because that’s the nature of the beast, that’s what happens when you watch it and be a lifelong fan of it. You see it happens over and over again, and I guess nothing along the way would really surprise me.”
Tagovailoa was assessed for a head injury at halftime of Miami’s win over the Bills in Week 5 after hitting his head on the ground and tripping on his way back to huddle. He cleared the concussion protocol and returned to the game, with him and the team saying it was a back injury he suffered earlier in the game that tripped him up.
He continued to pass concussion assessment throughout the week leading up to Thursday’s game and was cleared to play there, but suffered a concussion shortly before half-time which required a brief hospital stay. . Tagovailoa was released and allowed to return to Miami with the team early Friday morning.
The NFLPA exercised its right to initiate a review of the NFL’s concussion protocol after Tagovailoa’s quick return to the field and fired the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who performed his initial assessment after determining he had made “several errors” in his assessment, sources told ESPN.
Multiple sources told ESPN that the Tagovailoa management review could be completed as early as Thursday.
The reaction to Tagovailoa’s injury and handling drew myriad responses on social media and even from other NFL coaches. Speaking the day after Tagovailoa’s concussion against the Bengals, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he was “astonished” by what he had seen the night before.
“I coached for 40 years in college and in the NFL. I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Harbaugh said. “I really appreciate our doctors, I appreciate our owner, I appreciate our general manager from the point of view that there are two things that you have to keep in mind: one of them is that a lot players want to play. Sometimes you just have to tell them no. No has to be the answer.
“Sometimes guys can be physically where they’re healthy, but they’re not confident yet, they’re not quite there yet – and we’ve had that this year. We’ve had both of those situations this year. You don’t put them there until they’re ready.”
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick told radio station WEEI he had “definitely” ruled out players who appeared unable to play, despite being cleared by medical staff.
The Dolphins beat the Patriots and Ravens in their first two games of the 2022 season.
McDaniel insisted Tagovailoa was cleared by an independent neurologist and personally interacted with him throughout the week – and saw no signs of a head injury.
“I’m in constant communication with this guy day in and day out,” McDaniel said. “We’re talking high-level football conversations about progressions and defenses and recalling stuff from the previous two weeks and then he has to reiterate a 15-word play call. Everything, absolutely no signs. There was no indication medical, of all resources, that there was something concerning the head.
“Beyond an eyeball test, which I know for a fact you wouldn’t be very comfortable with if I relied on that alone – I mean, that’s why we have tests” , added McDaniel. “He didn’t have a head injury. So guys were banging their heads all the time, and that’s why I was adamant [that] he was assessed for having a head injury, and he didn’t have one. And when I tell you that he was in the middle of a mental concert, that he was telling us about it, then he played the whole match, then he did a press conference, then he did the media all week.
The Dolphins ruled out Tagovailoa for their Week 5 game against the New York Jets, naming Teddy Bridgewater the starter until Tagovailoa could return. McDaniel has repeatedly said there is no timeline for Tagovailoa as he remains on concussion protocol.