CINCINNATI — Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was taken to a local hospital and later released after suffering head and neck injuries on a second-quarter sack in Thursday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Dolphins said shortly before halftime that he was conscious and had movement in all his extremities at the hospital, the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
A source confirmed to ESPN that Tagovailoa was later released from the hospital and flew back with the team to South Florida.
Tagovailoa was in “good spirits” upon returning to his home in South Florida on Friday, a source told ESPN. Initial tests showed no structural damage, another source confirmed to ESPN, and Tagovailoa, who wore a neck brace as a precaution, will have an MRI.
Tagovailoa hit the back of his head on the ground when he was sacked by Bengals nose tackle Josh Tupou, and his arms appeared to seize up almost immediately. He remained on the field for roughly 10 minutes before he was loaded onto a stretcher and taken away.
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said Tagovailoa called for him when he went down.
“I could tell it wasn’t the same guy that I was used to seeing,” McDaniel said. “It was a scary moment. He was evaluated for a concussion. He’s in the concussion protocol, but he’s being discharged.
“It’s an emotional moment. It’s not a part of the deal you sign up for. His teammates and myself were very concerned, but he got checked out and it’s nothing more serious than a concussion.”
The entire Dolphins team gathered at midfield as Tagovailoa was taken off, and the crowd chanted, “Tua! Tua!”
In Sunday’s win over the Buffalo Bills, Tagovailoa underwent concussion evaluations at halftime after he hit his head on the ground and then stumbled while trying to return to the huddle. The team initially listed him as questionable to return because of a head injury but later said it was a back injury that caused him to stumble. Tagovailoa said later in the week that he passed every evaluation he took before ultimately returning to the game.
The NFL Players Association requested a review of the NFL’s concussion protocols following Tagovailoa’s quick return to the game.
“Player health and safety is at the core of the union’s mission. Our concern tonight is for Tua and we hope for a full and speedy recovery. Our investigation into the potential protocol violation is ongoing,” the NFLPA said in a statement after Tagovailoa was hurt Thursday night.
McDaniel, asked whether he knew with 100% certainty that Tagovailoa was not concussed after Sunday’s game, said yes, and noted that Tagovailoa was cleared by an independent neurologist.
“People don’t stray. We don’t mess with that. As long as I’m the head coach, that will never be an issue,” McDaniel said.
Asked whether there was anything he could have done differently following the Bills game, McDaniel said: “Absolutely zero patience for or will ever put a player in position for them to be in harm’s way. That’s not what I’m about at all. No outcome of a game would influence me to be irresponsible as a head coach of a football team.”
Tagovailoa, 24, was listed as questionable because of a back injury for most of the week ahead of Thursday night’s game.
Before leaving the game, Tagovailoa was 8-for-14 for 110 yards and an interception.
Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill said players were asking for updates on the quarterback throughout the second half.
“You wanna win the game but obviously you wanna make sure that your brother is all right,” Hill said. “Football is just our part-time job, but that brotherhood is something that’ll last forever.”
Teddy Bridgewater entered in Tagovailoa’s place and finished 14-for-23 for 193 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the 27-15 loss. The Dolphins had rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson active for the first time in his career, as well.
Linebacker Jaelan Phillips said it was difficult to compartmentalize after seeing Tagovailoa stretchered off.
“That’s kind of what football is all about. We practice compartmentalizing every day. It’s not easy — we all love Tua,” he said. “It’s definitely tough to try to refocus, but we tried.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.