DeMaurice Smith vows to pursue “every legal option” regarding the handling of Tua Tagovailoa on Sunday


The biggest concern emerging from Thursday night’s game between the Dolphins and Bengals is whether Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa should have been playing.

As explained by Michael Smith on the Amazon postgame show, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith texted to Andrew Whitworth (a former NFLPA player rep) and Richard Sherman (a member of the NFLPA executive committee) the following message: “We insisted on these rules to avoid exactly this scenario. We will pursue every legal option, including making referrals against the doctors to licensing agencies and the team that is obligated to keep our players safe.”

Amen to all of that.

Here’s the issue, as I explained it both on Football Night in America and throughout the week, on PFT Live and in this outlet. If a player shows “gross motor instability,” he may continue only if the team physician and the Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant conclude that the instability was not neurologically caused.

I posed to the league — twice — on Sunday a very simple question. How did the team physician and the UNC conclude that the gross motor instability exhibited by Tua was not neurological? Did they take Tua’s word for it that it was a back injury? Did they carefully study the know-it-when-you-see-it video that the wobbling and wooziness was not the result of a head injury? Did they do something else?

Those questions have yet to be answered. Presumably, they’ll be answered as part of the investigation that was initiated by the NFLPA. They need to be.

It doesn’t matter if Tua cleared every possible cognitive test that they administered. They still were required BY RULE to determine that the gross motor instability did not have a neurological cause.

Absent that conclusion, he wouldn’t have returned to the game. He quite possibly wouldn’t have played tonight.

Even if, as it appears, Tua will be fine, that doesn’t diminish the concern. The goal is to prevent a player who has had one head injury from having another. The consequences can be devastating for the player. They can, frankly, be fatal.

It’s important for anyone who enjoys and/or profits from the game to care about the health and safety of all players, and to be vigilant about ensuring that the rules aimed at protecting the players are honored — even if it means that a player won’t be available to return to a big game, or to play in another big game starting only four days later.

Those are the stakes. Tua managed to avoid a serious outcome. Unless this potential flaw in the protocol is rectified, the next player may not be so fortunate. Or the next one. Or the next one.

Thirteen years ago, quarterback Carson Palmer made waves by warning in a roundtable discussion moderated by Peter King that, inevitably, there will be a fatality in a game. That outcome, obviously, must be avoided at all costs. How the Tua situation is handled by the league and the union will go a long way toward helping ensure that Palmer’s prediction never comes to fruition.

53 responses to “DeMaurice Smith vows to pursue “every legal option” regarding the handling of Tua Tagovailoa on Sunday

  1. Hmmmm funny how this is such an issue now but somehow Smith didn’t tell his client “don’t practice or play until an independent neurologist examines you”

  2. Shouldn’t the NFLPA get a doctors report sent to the doctor that represents them?
    This sounds all screwed up. Tua had severe symptoms and he did not hit the ground all that hard tonight.

  3. Im sorry to say it and I am very glad to hear he’s doing well, but we as fans don’t really care about the semantics of all of what’s gone on with this like the media seems to. He finished the game last week and looked fine, and he looked fine before he got hurt today. It’s being written as if he’s been shoveled out there as a corpse against his will on both occasions, which is untrue.

  4. Just a few days ago PFT posted an article stating The investigation into his head injury would take one to two weeks. In the meantime he gets to play one, maybe two, games, turns out he couldn’t make it through a half before he was convulsing on the field. The whole thinking system is culpable.

  5. The concussion on Sunday vs. the Bills was more than obvious to anyone watching him try to get up and stumble around before being held u by a teammate. You cannot convince me that trained medical professionals cleared him to play tonight, let alone go back in and finish the game Sunday. Gross negligence. Heads will roll for this. Taken off on a stretcher during a prime time game…terrible look for the NFL and “Player safety.”

  6. You stated it perfectly.

    There was no one in America who couldn’t see it was a concussion laat week, he shouldn’t have been out there tonight, thoughts and prayers aren’t enough, the fire the HC, the team doctors, and get this investigation underway so Carson isn’t proven right.

  7. The “independent” doctor who cleared Tua to re-enter last Sunday’s game after an obvious concussion could not be reached for comment.
    Hope it was worth it!

  8. I never realized that there had never been a death on the field.

    Guess I just assumed that back in the 1920s or something some guy just collapsed and died.

    Sooner or later it is going to happen though regardless of what safeguards are put in place.

  9. The league always finds (or writes in) a loophole in any procedure to ultimately be able to do whatever they want to do. It would be of no surprise if this is the case with the concussion protocol!

  10. Most people believe last week’s injury looked like a head injury. Every sport fan will agree he was concussed in Bengals game. When I saw Tua’s fingers cramp up I knew it was bad. The question now is, what do the Dolphins with Tua. If they play him again in the next couple weeks and he sustains another concussion his career may be over.

  11. Mike McDaniel has been a media darling since he came to the Dolphins. He looks bad here. Really bad. We will see if he’s given a pass by the media for potentially risking a player’s life.

  12. He clearly stood up and shook his head to try and regain himself. Not a back injury and don’t be so naive to think it was or cite “personal experience.” NFL has its new story of the season. Just hope Tua doesn’t keep drinking their Kool aid and exposes the truth.

  13. He may or not be fine now, but let’s check back in 20-25 years to see if he experiences ALS, dementia or CTE.

  14. The Las Vegas Raiders had two starters, James and Renfrow, both got mild concussions in game two, neither have been allowed on the practice field yet, it’s been over a week and a half. Miami allows their star quarterback to not only practice, but start a game four days after having his brains scrambled. Tua on that artificial turf was frightening. If Miami cares about their players at all, Tua should maybe not see the field again this year. I know this sounds ugly, but I think Tua suffered brain damage tonight. Prayers for Tua.

  15. “ It’s important for anyone who enjoys and/or profits from the game to care about the health and safety of all players, and to be vigilant about ensuring that the rules aimed at protecting the players are honored — even if it means that a player won’t be available to return to a big game, or to play in another big game starting only four days later.”

    I’m pretty sure Mike McDaniel knows this. There is no way he risks the ramifications of skirting this perspective, losing his locker room in the process.

  16. Al Michaels was the only talking head to even come close to addressing this in a serious manner during the broadcast. It appears Florio and Peter King are the only two legitimate journalists covering the NFL nationally any longer. This is an extremely serious issue that should garner national media attention.

  17. shouldn’t they be just as adamant about playing surfaces? It’s been proven that artificial crap is much more damaging than real grass. Yes, the braain is more important, but safety is safety, amiright? (this is not new news, it’s been known for decades already)

  18. He has had that concussion all week. That was a lie about his back and ankle, they just picked something that hurt and pointed to that. But everyone that saw the injury knew they were looking at a head injury and disorientation (bell rung) and not a back or ankle. They lied because the value his game contributions higher than his long term health. They can shade the media and the league to pretend he didn’t have a concussion. But they could not shade the next time he took a good hit when already concussed.

  19. Yes, those that profit from the game should be concerned about player health. Tua profits as well. Doesn’t the player have autonomy? His not working affects his value.

  20. In comparison to other big hits around the league the one on Tua didn’t look that bad. His response to it however was one of the worse that I’ve seen. Makes me think it was more than just his back on Sunday

  21. How do you determine it doesn’t have a neurological cause other than administering every possible test? Which they did, and he passed. Doctors aren’t God.

  22. “It’s important for anyone who enjoys and/or profits from the game to care about the health and safety of all players, and to be vigilant about ensuring that the rules aimed at protecting the players are honored”

    The problem is that some people who enjoy the game don’t care about the players health and safety. We see it here all the time, people complaining about safety rules, claiming that today’s players are not tough, pining for old-style football, etc. The league knows that a certain portion of it’s consumers want to be entertained despite the human cost.

  23. Any one who says the shaking of his head, the stumble and the falling down was related to anything other than head trauma is a liar.

  24. But is he at risk for worsening injuries? 2 weeks in a row seems like a pattern. Does he just go about business as usual or take a week off to play it safe?

  25. There is NO DOUBT McDaniel put Tua health in a compromising position after Sunday’s “back injury”

  26. People also need to get off their high horse about Tua as well. Everyone who is a football fan knew damn well Tua had a concussion last week and they let him back into the game and also allowed him to play last night when he had no business doing so. The only person who has to answer for this is Tua himself. It’s unfortunate he got knocked out of the game but his insistence on playing after masking his concussion for a back injury led to that unfortunate scene last night. The team and the head coach is also complicit in this. Straight up this game is about wins, wins and money. If Tua gets knocked out of that game last week it cost the league money cause people are changing the channel or going to run errands. The league created this to allow the player to decide which in reality not a decision cause the player will almost always choose to play.

  27. Multiple’professionals’ signed off on him playing but ultimately it was the player HIMSELF who said he had no issues…..let’s stop the blame game…it’s a rough sport.

  28. There will be gesticulation and bloviation, but nothing will happen. They will close ranks and protect the bank. They are planning it as we speak.

  29. In what world does a back injury make one wobbly?
    The Dolphins doctor and unaffiliated consultant should be fired.
    Also good on the NFLPA going to the licensing agencies.

  30. It may not be feasible to have the capability to put a “like” option on all articles but, maybe on some (like this one) to get a consensus of the public support on the matter?

    That said, although not cheap, surely there a way to detect a concussion bad enough to cause motor disfunction with a MRI or CT scan?

  31. “Even if, as it appears, Tua will be fine, that doesn’t diminish the concern.”

    Well, I know what you are saying. Tua may be fine in the short run, in terms of being able to play this season. However, it is not at all clear that he will be fine in the long run.
    We have many examples now of how repeated head trauma during an NFL career can cause serious cognitive impairment later in life. Some of this trauma may be inevitable in a typical NFL career. However, protecting players from things such as happened this Thursday can possibly mitigate the severity later in life. Smith has a point.

  32. This was a LIE from the get go. PEOS.
    The NFL has been changed forever because of concussions and then the Dolphins grossly chose to go the route of game importance over player safety. Tau helped deceive as well so no one should feel sorry for him. We are where we are in tackle football today because of concussions and all the facts we know about them and then to have a team and a player cover up a concussion so they can get a win is abhorrent. It sets the entire league back. Hopefully Tau makes a full recovery, but last night was definitely part two in a SAD story.

  33. Not one of the “social media neurologists” that have cropped up in the last 24 hours was in the locker room last weekend when Tua was checked for a concussion. Yet all of these sudden medical experts are convinced that he was allowed to play with a head injury. Forget that there is an independent doctor that must approve his return to the game. These social media practitioners all know better than the actual medical experts because of what their “eyes told them”, and because they’ve been “watching football for a long, long time”.

    Speculation, accusatory language, threats of lawsuits or legal action. At this juncture, all of that talk is as irresponsible as it is inflammatory, and it needs to stop while the investigation is ongoing.

  34. The game of football can’t afford to have those type of images on TV. It set the game back many years. Now the fight will be when Tua returns and who makes that decision. My guess is next season.

  35. Tua made the decision to play. If he can’t stand up for him self, move on and retire.
    Everyone knows the risks now. Take some personal responsibility.

  36. Reno Hightower says:
    September 30, 2022 at 9:16 am
    Tua is the one who told us it was his back. He wasnt forced to play.

    This is exactly the wrong mindset. Why even have the doctors then? This was said a lot about Baker Mayfield last year – “it was his choice to play”. No, the teams and the league are responsible for the health of the players, and allowing this BS about “he wanted to play” is just wrong.

    The NFL needs to get away from the mindset that hurt players need to stay on the field or they’ll lose their jobs. Players are usually going to say they can play, if they’re able. But it’s not their choice – the medical staff is there to protect the players, not to enable them to get hurt worse.

    Another example: when Washington played RGIII despite his knee injury in that playoff game. They sacrificed his career for one game.

    The league can’t say on one hand that they’re for player safety and then on the other say “well, the player wanted to be out there”. That’s just them trying to shift the blame.

  37. Where does common sense take over? Did everyone in the Dolphins organization look the other way on what occured on Sunday for the sake of a victory? You didn’t need PhD at the end of your name to figure out that Tua was concussed on Sunday. The NFL’s spin Dr’s. will be in overdrive trying to spit out some reasoning that will cover their butts and I hope they can live with that expnation, but any reasonable thinking human being should look at it as complete BS!! I hope Tua has a complete recovery, but on the surface it appears that the Dolphins may have found and lost their franchise QB in the space of less than a week.

  38. Andrew Witworth nailed it in the postgame. He said he had been concussed, but passed all of his tests and went back on the field. It took a teammate saying something isn’t right before they took him out.

    You have to wonder with all the NFL media talking about this was a “prove it” year for Tua that lead to him saying and doing all the right things to get back on the field because he had been playing well and probing he did deserve to be a starter in this league.

    I’m not a doctor, but coached sports for years and had to go through concussion training to be able to recognize the symptoms. What happened to Tua on Sunday checked all the boxes for a concussion. I don’t know how he was on the field in the 2nd half last week, let alone 4 days later.

    Like Whitworth said, sometimes others have to protect the player from himself. IF the team doctors and an independent neurologist cleared Tua on Sunday, somebody should be asking why. At the very least he sits the 2nd half and is cleared to play last night. Was a victory over the Bills really that important in week 3 of the season to risk possibly losing him for the rest of the season or possibly ending his career?

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