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Phinsider Questions Of The Day: Where Do We Go From Here?

Where do we go from here? Teddy Bridgewater, Tua Tagovailoa and the new concussion protocol.

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets Photo by Edward Diller/Getty Images

It's been a while since I have had a solid question or multiple questions to ask The Phinsider faithful. Unfortunately, the last couple of weeks for the Miami Dolphins and their fan base have been very frustrating, to say the least. Miami, for a change, started the 2022 season by bursting out of the gate, winning three straight including finally defeating the Buffalo Bills for the first time in what seems like a lifetime. The offense, for the first time since Dan Marino was the biggest name on the roster, looked like a threat to any team. The fan base's confidence in the team and the new coaching staff was sky-high. In the last of those three thrilling victories, over the Buffalo Bills, as has now been documented by nearly every media outlet in America, Dolphins starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered an injury. He was taken to the locker room, later reentering the game with the team stating that his issues were due not to concussions but two other medical issues.

Now I am no neurologist but at the time it happened I was sure that Tua had a concussion given how he staggered following the hit against Buffalo. I also trusted the Miami Dolphins medical staff to make the correct decision as it applied to the health of a player, any player, let alone the starting quarterback. We can sit here and debate if he should have gone back in the game or not all day long and none of it matters now. He then did clearly suffer a concussion in a game that took place only four days later. This time Tua had to be taken off the field strapped to a backboard and then taken to the hospital resulting in a moment that was or should have been scary for every football fan watching the game. It seems as if he will be okay in the long run but I am pleased to see the team taking every precaution and placing his health and long-term well-being over any desire to win.

The concussion that Tua suffered was almost immediately followed by outcries from the media and the players union. The assertion was that he clearly had a concussion in the Bills game and that the Dolphins, their coaches, and their medical staff screwed up. Some accused the staff of knowing that he had a concussion and that they decided that winning was more important than his health. Both the union and the NFL then immediately started an investigation into the Dolphins and while the investigation found no wrongdoing on the Dolphins' part as they followed the concussion “protocol” it did cost the independent neuro doctor his job with the team. Both sides also began a review of the concussion protocol going forward. In the end, the protocol was updated by agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA and at least one part of it states that if a player exhibits ataxia, a sort of lack of body control that might make one stagger as a result of a concussion, the player will not return to the game and will enter the new concussion protocol. This all seems fair and while it might be a bit much at times it does seem smart to be cautious just in case, especially when you see a player stagger badly two times like with Tua where he nearly fell down following the hit against Buffalo.

That brings us to last Sunday in the game against the New York Jets. At the beginning of the game, Phins quarterback Teddy Bridgewater took a hard hit in the endzone. The kind of hit that most NFL quarterbacks take at least once a game. Bridgewater got back up and I have personally watched about ten different videos, from different angles, and nowhere can I decern anything that seems even close to staggering, stumbling, or any loss of motor skills. Likewise, nearly every other person, media personalities and otherwise, that I can find that has reviewed the tapes cannot find anything that even closely resembles “staggering” or “stumbling”. Unfortunately for the Dolphins and Bridgewater the NFL’s “spotter” claimed otherwise, stating that he pulled the player and placed him in the protocol due to his staggering. Due to the new rules, the spotter overrules everything, even the protocol that the team and team medical staff would normally follow to determine if a player has a concussion and whether or not he can reenter the game. Additionally, the spotter has zero responsibility to prove his assertion to the team or anyone else. His word is final and thus Bridgwater did not reenter the game and can not even practice until Thursday despite the team stating that he clearly does not have a concussion.

This is the frustrating part. He has no concussion but Teddy is in a protocol for a condition that he does not even have. I think that there is zero chance that the Dolphins would claim as much if they were not 1000% sure that he was alright given the uproar of the last two weeks. It’s hard to not think that this happened in this exact case not because Bridgewater showed any signs of actually having a concussion. Following a hard hit and it being a Dolphins player it seems that a bit of prejudice entered the way the spotter saw the play or the aftermath of the play. Now we also see defensive players being flagged all over the place for “roughing the passer” for just breathing on the quarterback. If this is where we are then like one person stated (I wish I could credit him but I forget who it was), we should just put flags on the quarterback as the refs are clearly not allowing them to even be touched at times. I am so all for ANYTHING that improves player safety and health. The problem here is that all of this smells of overreach by the NFL and strangely by the union that represents the players that are affected by these rules. If you are Bridgewater how pissed are you right now at your own union?

So one of my questions is not how pissed is a player over the new rules but how do we fix the protocol so that it does what the NFL and the union as well as the teams, players, and fans want it to do, protect players and not penalize teams and players for random judgments from a single person that neither can be questioned nor must back up his determination in any factual way? Is it productive for an NFL’s medical staff to be dealing with keeping up with a player in a protocol that is not necessary while there are plenty of other players that need attention and help with their various real injuries or a player that is actually suffering the after-effects of a concussion? And finally, how much is the slate of Thursday night games contributing to additional player injuries given that most players are at least a little banged up each week but only get three days off before going right back into a game? It has seemed to me for a while now that some of the most serious injuries that I have witnessed occurred on Thursday nights and this can not be just a coincidence.

As a side note am I the only one that held my breath each time Skylar Thompson took a hard hit thinking that the hit alone would result in him being pulled from the game and then we would have no quarterback? I am also sure that many of the hits that Skylar took were far worse than what Bridgewater suffered. Another side question, am I the only one that could not help but laugh when Tyreek Hill tried to tackle a defensive lineman twice his size only to be cast aside like a doll? I in no way was happy that we turned the ball over but given the otherwise frustrating afternoon it was something to laugh about.

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