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At the end of the first half of the Miami Dolphins Week 3 upset of the Buffalo Bills, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa hit his head on the turf and struggled to walk afterward. The Dolphins medical staff evaluated Tagovailoa for a concussion and decided he was clear to return for the second half. The QB came back as reports — and the player himself after the game — credited the wobbly legs to a back injury. However, the NFLPA is opening an investigation into the situation.

Tua Tagovailoa claims a back injury led to his scary-looking injury

As the Dolphins-Bills Week 3 matchup headed toward the first-half two-minute warning, Bills linebacker Matt Milano shoved Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa to the ground. The signal-caller obviously hit the back of his head on the turf as a result of the play.

As Tagovailoa got up and tried to return to the huddle, he was shaking his head before his legs gave out, and he fell to the ground. After getting up a second time, looking wobbly, two of his offensive lineman grabbed him and held him up until the training staff got there.

During halftime, NFL insider Ian Rapoport tweeted, “Officially: Tua Tagovailoa has a head injury and is questionable to return.” Then, as Tagovailoa came out in the second half to quarterback his team, Rapoport tweeted a completely different story.

“My understanding of the Tua Tagovailoa situation: He tweaked his back in the 1st quarter on a sneak and didn’t miss time,” Rapoport wrote. “After the Matt Milano hit, his back locked up — leading to him wobbling. Into the locker room for a full concussion check. Fully cleared. Now on the field.”

Despite never grabbing his back while stumbling around the field, that was the Dolphins’ official story. Tagovailoa returned and went 5-of-8 110 yards and a touchdown, leading his team to an upset 21-19 victory.

After the game, the QB stuck to the back injury story.

In his postgame presser, Tua told reporters that on a QB sneak, “it felt like I hyperextended my back or something.” He then explained, “on the next play, I kind of hit my back and kind of hurt it. And then I got up, and that’s kind of, like, why I stumbled. My back kind of licked up on me.”

Tagovailoa also added, “For the most part, I’m good. Passed whatever concussion protocol they had. So, yeah.”

While that might be a good enough explanation for some fans, at least one group isn’t completely buying it. The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) is now investigating the situation.

The NFLPA is investigating the Dolphins’ concussion protocol

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa walks off the field with trainers in Week 3 vs. the Buffalo Bills.
Tua Tagovailoa | David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tua Tagovailoa returning to the game without a diagnosed concussion was huge for the Miami Dolphins. His backup, Teddy Bridgewater, was 0-of-2 passing with a sack spelling the briefly-injured starter.

To many watching from home (including several ex-players on social media), it’s hard to believe that with the way Tagovailoa staggered after hitting his head that he didn’t have some sort of head injury.

The NFLPA thinks this is possible, too. After the game, NFL insider Tom Pelissero tweeted, “The NFLPA is initiating an investigation into the handling of #Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa’s concussion check during their game against the #Bills today in Miami, per source.”


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The investigation will be an interesting look at the NFL’s concussion protocol. It could also have ramifications for the Dolphins moving forward.

Right now, since Tagovailoa allegedly didn’t have a concussion, he won’t enter next week in the league’s concussion protocol. That is huge for his team, as the Dolphins have a quick turnaround. The team travels to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals this week on Thursday Night Football.

This means that not diagnosing Tagovailoa with a concussion in Week 3 vs. the Bills may have saved the Dolphins QB from missing the second half this week and the Week 4 matchup.

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