Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was taken by ambulance to a Cincinnati-area hospital after sustaining head and neck injuries during his team's 27-15 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night.
He was later discharged from the hospital on Thursday and flew home with the team, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday morning.
Following the game, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said Tagovailoa suffered a concussion and nothing "more serious."
Tagovailoa, who was ruled out of the game, was conscious throughout and had full movement in his extremities. He is in concussion protocol, per McDaniel.
"That was an emotional moment, that is not part of the deal that anyone signs up for, even though you know it's a possibility in football to have something that you have to get taken off on a stretcher," McDaniel said. "All of his teammates and myself, we were all very concerned, so the best news that we could get is that everything's checked out, that he didn't have anything more serious than a concussion, and will be flying back with us here on the plane."
The quarterback's injury occurred in the second quarter when he was sacked by Cincinnati defensive tackle Josh Tupou with around six minutes left in the first half, and was slung down to the turf, appearing to hit the back of his head. In a frightening sight, Tagovailoa was on the ground with his arms outstretched, contorting his fingers, somewhat like a boxer or fighter after a knockout in what is referred to as a fencing response.
Tagovailoa stayed on the ground for a few minutes while trainers attended to him before a stretcher was brought out to take him off the field. He was then taken by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
The injury to Tagovailoa comes just four days removed from him temporarily exiting the Dolphins' win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Tagovailoa left Sunday's game with what was initially announced by the team as a head injury. The QB returned to start the second half of the game and finished out the win. Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said in the aftermath of the game that Tagovailoa had injured his back in the first half and the injury was exacerbated by the hit he sustained from Bills linebacker Matt Milano.
The NFL Players Association subsequently planned to investigate if proper concussion protocol was followed. The NFL on Wednesday confirmed a review was ongoing, but every indication was that proper protocol had been followed. The NFLPA released a statement Thursday night stating its investigation is ongoing and that its "concern tonight is for Tua and we hope for a full and speedy recovery."
McDaniel emphasized Thursday that an independent specialist evaluated Tagovailoa Sunday and he did nothing to "fudge" with protocol being followed.
"That's why the NFL has these protocols, and there's not like every single NFL game that is played," he said. "There's an independent specialist that specializes in specialty brain matter, so for me, as long as I'm coaching here, I'm not going to fudge that whole situation. If there's any sort of inclination that somebody has a concussion, they go into concussion protocol; it's very strict. People don't vary or stray; we don't mess with that, we never have as long as I've been head coach, so it'd never be an issue that you guys have to worry about."
Leading into Thursday's game, Tagovailoa was questionable to play due to back and ankle soreness, but made the start. McDaniel does not believe Tagovailoa's injuries sustained Sunday had a direct connection to Thursday's circumstance. Furthermore, he underscored that he would never put the result of a game as a priority over the well-being of a player.
"I don't think that an injury from last week made him fall the same way this week, but yeah, I do not have any, like absolutely zero patience for, or will ever put a player in position for them to be in harm's way," McDaniel said. "That is not what I'm about at all, and no outcome of a game would ever influence me being responsible as the head coach of a football team."
Tagovailoa was 8-of-14 for 110 yards, no touchdowns and an interception prior to his exit Thursday. Teddy Bridgewater took over at quarterback for the Dolphins.
The 24-year-old Tagovailoa, the 2020 NFL Draft's fifth-overall pick, is in his third season with Miami.