McDaniel: 'Wouldn't Have Been Able to Live with Myself If' Tua Tagovailoa Was at Risk

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 30, 2022

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach Mike McDaniel speaks with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins in the fourth quarter of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said Friday that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was given full medical clearance before playing in Thursday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

According to ESPN's Jeff Darlington, McDaniel was asked why the team started Tagovailoa despite outside concern about a potential head injury against the Buffalo Bills just four days earlier.

"There was no medical indication from all resources," he said. "If there would have been anything lingering with his head, I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I prematurely put someone out there in harm's way."

During the second quarter of Thursday's 27-15 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Tagovailoa hit his head on the turf while being slung down for a sack. Tua's arms and hands seized up, resulting in a scary moment.

Tagovailoa was carted off the field and taken to the hospital for evaluation, but he avoided any structural damage to his neck and was released from the hospital Thursday night in time to fly home with the team, per ESPN's Marcel Louis-Jacques.

Many reporters, medical experts and fans were outspoken against Tagovailoa starting Thursday since he seemed to suffer a head injury during the second quarter of last week's win over Buffalo. In that instance, he hit the back of his head on the ground following a push from Bills linebacker Matt Milano and stumbled to the ground when he tried to stand.

The Dolphins initially announced that he was evaluated for a head injury, but he was allowed to re-enter that game, and the team later said it was a back injury that caused Tua to become unsteady and fall.

With Tua suffering a head injury Thursday, the narrative that doctors erred by clearing him for the game is only growing stronger regardless of whether he passed every test needed to play.

Per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, McDaniel was steadfast in his belief that everything was done properly and by the book, saying: "I have 100 percent conviction in our process regarding our players. This is a player-friendly organization. ... There was no medical indication from all resources there was anything regarding the head."

The Dolphins went to great lengths during the offseason to give Tua every chance to succeed in 2022, trading for wide receiver Tyreek Hill and signing left tackle Terron Armstead, among other moves.

Those acquisitions seemed to pay immediate dividends, as the Dolphins started 3-0, and Tua threw for 925 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions in those games.

With Tagovailoa getting knocked out of Thursday's game, backup Teddy Bridgewater replaced him. Bridgewater played relatively well and had the Dolphins ahead 15-14 early in the fourth quarter, but Joe Burrow and the Bengals came back to win, handing the Dolphins their first loss.

Given how severe Thursday's head injury appeared to be, it is unclear when Tagovailoa will be able to play again.

In fact, McDaniel had no interest in discussing Tua's return to action, saying: "I'm not even thinking about timetables as a player. It's about Tua as a person. We're just worried about him getting healthy and getting all of the testing done. We'll cross the bridge on timetables."

Until Tagovailoa is cleared to play again, the Dolphins are poised to move forward with Bridgewater as the temporary starter, which perhaps caps the potential of the Miami offense.