Patriots' Bill Belichick Has 'Definitely' Held Players Out Despite Medical Clearance

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVOctober 3, 2022

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 02: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks onward during pregame against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 02, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he has kept players out even if they clear concussion protocol.

The coach explained the process Monday on The Greg Hill Show, via Audacy (around 9:50 mark):

"I've definitely done that before. If I see a player that I think is not functioning properly and for some reason it hasn't been identified, then absolutely ... I have done that. I would say not recently, those are things that have happened, you know, at other points in my career. ... A player doesn't look like he's functioning properly and then we evaluate him with the medical people. But we also, as a secondary check, even if the medical people were to clear a player, we still go through a coaching clearance to make sure that he's ready to play football, not just medically cleared. We always have a secondary, you know, evaluation on that."

The discussion came after Tua Tagovailoa was carted off the field and brought to the hospital after a hit in Thursday's game between the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals. Tagovailoa appeared to display concussion symptoms on Sept. 25 against the Buffalo Bills but was allowed to return to the game.

The unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who checked Tagovailoa in the Week 3 game has been fired. The NFL and NFLPA have also agreed on changes to the league's concussion protocol, which "rule out players who exhibit gross motor instability," per Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

Belichick said Monday that he stays out of the medical side and that he's "not qualified" to discuss certain injuries (around the 9:20 mark). However, he and his coaching staff want to make sure players are ready to compete even if medically cleared.

The protocol was an issue for the Patriots on Sunday when starting quarterback Brian Hoyer was ruled out of the game with a concussion. With Mac Jones already unavailable because of an ankle injury, the team had to turn to its third-stringer in rookie fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe.

New England suffered a 27-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers in overtime.