Current and former NFL players expressed their dismay when Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took his second hit to the head in as many games Thursday night against the Bengals. One of them took the opportunity to commend the Patriots for how they handled his head injury when he played for them last decade.
Former offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger, who played with New England from 2009-11, tweeted he’s “very thankful” for the way the Patriots treated his concussion during his final season with the team. Ohrnberger suffered a concussion during the last preseason game and spent the season on injured reserve.
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He says the Patriots didn’t even consider letting him back on the field.
“I was out on my feet, they took it seriously, and I spent the year on IR,” he tweeted. “They saved me from myself. I would've rushed back if they let me. They didn’t.”
The Dolphins seemingly took the opposite approach with Tagovailoa, who re-entered last Sunday’s game against the Bills after he appeared to slam his head on the turf and struggled to stay on his feet. While the Dolphins originally said the young QB suffered a head injury, they said later he actually suffered a back injury, and was cleared by an independent neurologist to return (every team is required to employ an independent neurologist to evaluate players).
The NFLPA is investigating whether Miami followed concussion protocols.
Tagovailoa was listed as “questionable” on the team’s injury report with a “back/ankle” issue leading into Thursday’s game. Tagovailoa started, and in the second quarter, Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou grabbed Tagovailoa and threw him to the ground. His helmet then smacked against the turf. Dolphins trainers put Tagovailoa on a stretcher and wheeled him off the field.
Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel insists the team followed the proper health and safety protocols. "For me as long as long as I'm coaching here, I'm got going to fudge that whole situation,” he told reporters this week.
But there are doubts. Chris Nowinski, the chief executive of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, lambasted the Dolphins for clearing Tagovailoa.
“This is a disaster,” tweeted Nowinski. “Pray for Tua. Fire the medical staffs and coaches. I predicted this, and I hate that I am right.”
Ohrnberger recounted his concussion recovery in a sobering 2019 article for the Los Angeles Times, calling the isolating process a “twisted road.” The Patriots wound up releasing Ohrnberger after the season.
But thanks to their due-diligence, Ohrnberger recovered from his concussion, and played in the NFL again. In that case, the Patriots got it right.
It doesn’t look like the Dolphins did, and the costs could be grave.