The NFL Players Association is initiating an investigation into the handling of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's concussion evaluation during Sunday's game against the Bills, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported on Sunday.
Tagovailoa briefly exited Sunday's game in the first half with what the team announced as a head injury after he sustained a hit from Bills linebacker Matt Milano who was flagged for roughing the passer on the play. Tagovailoa then stumbled following the play and was replaced in the game by backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Tagovailoa later returned to the field for the start of the second half and helped lead Miami to a 21-19 win over Buffalo.
Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel told reporters after the game that Tagovailoa suffered a lower-back injury in the first half, which was exacerbated by the hit from Milano.
"He kind of got bent back pretty severe on a quarterback sneak earlier," McDaniel said. "... When he hit his head on the ground, I assumed it was a head injury, but his legs got wobbly because his lower back was completely loose as he described it."
Tagovailoa, who wore wrap around his lower back after the game, explained to reporters that the play that preceded the Milano hit began his back issues.
"Kind of got my legs caught under someone, they were trying to push back and it felt like I hyper-extended my back or something," Tagovailoa said. "It kind of hurt. I got up, and that's kind of why I stumbled. My back kind of locked up on me. But for the most part, I'm good. Passed whatever concussion protocol they had."
The league's concussion protocol states that gross motor instability means a player cannot return to the game if the "team physician, in consultation with the sideline UNC (unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant), determines the instability to be neurologically caused." NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported during Sunday's game that doctors determined that not to be the case with Tagovailoa, who re-entered the game after clearing a concussion evaluation.
Pelissero reported that under the current collective bargaining agreement, the union, the NFL management council or any individual player has the right (independently or collectively) to bring forward a complaint about an alleged failure to follow the league's concussion protocol, which will then be investigated and resolved by the NFLPA and the league's management council.