EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Tua Tagovailoa, the Miami Dolphins’ third-year quarterback, didn’t travel along with his team for Sunday’s game as he recovered from a concussion that rocked the N.F.L. ecosystem.
As he convalesced, the league and the players’ union revised how players’ brain injuries are assessed, a change to the health protocols after he was carted off the sector to be treated for a head injury during a game on Sept. 29. It was the second game in five days by which a tackle caused Tagovailoa to hit his head on the bottom.
On the Dolphins’ first offensive play Sunday, Tagovailoa’s backup, Teddy Bridgewater, banged his head similarly and was faraway from the sport, in accordance with the brand new concussions protocol.
Jets cornerback Ahmad Gardner hit Bridgewater, and the side of Bridgewater’s helmet hit the sector in the long run zone. He exited the sport with head and elbow injuries, forcing the third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson, a rookie, to complete the sport, which the Jets won, 40-17.
The Dolphins (3-2) entered the sport with the Jets (3-2) under intense scrutiny for his or her handling of Tagovailoa’s concussion, and Bridgewater’s injury will test the implementation of the N.F.L.’s recent concussion protocols, which the league and players’ union agreed to Saturday.
The amended protocol, which took effect Sunday, prohibits a player from returning to play if he shows ataxia, a term describing impaired balance or coordination attributable to damage to the brain or nerves. Under the previous protocol, a player with “gross motor instability” — difficulty getting up or walking, for instance — could return to play if doctors decided there was an orthopedic reason for his unsteadiness.
In response to a team spokesperson, Bridgewater passed concussion tests within the locker room, but was ruled out because an independent head injury spotter saw Bridgewater stumble after the play and attributed it to ataxia. Mike McDaniel, the first-year Dolphins coach, said in a news conference that Bridgewater showed no concussion-like symptoms and that he “believed” the quarterback could travel home with the team.
Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill declined to invest after the sport about whether Bridgewater must have been removed.
“Obviously, I might want Teddy on the market, but when someone sees something, I would like to be cautious,” said Hill, who caught all seven of his targets for 47 yards. “That’s their job to observe stuff like that.”
The protocols modified due to a joint review initiated by the N.F.L. Players Association after Tagovailoa’s head hit the sector after a tackle Sept. 25 against the Buffalo Bills. He slowly rose to his feet, shook his head after which stumbled after taking a couple of steps. He was evaluated within the locker room for a concussion, but didn’t show symptoms, and Tagovailoa was cleared to return after doctors concluded he had aggravated a back injury.
4 days later, against the Cincinnati Bengals, Tagovailoa’s head again bounced against the sector after a tackle, causing him to lie on the bottom for nearly 10 minutes. He was briefly hospitalized and discharged that night, but he was diagnosed with a concussion. He must complete a five-step recovery process before returning to play.
The league and the players’ union said Saturday that the investigation found that the protocols were followed regarding Tagovailoa’s injury against the Bills. But each parties agreed so as to add an additional layer of caution before allowing potentially concussed players back into games.
“You possibly can write that ‘they’re abandoning the protocol and improving the protocol,’ but really we’re constructing on higher, more precise language, like, ‘ataxia,’ without exception, as a method to protect the player,” Dr. Thom Mayer, the union’s medical director, said Friday in an interview.
McDaniel said he agreed with the brand new protocols and the investigation’s findings.
“I’m glad that there’s some policy that the medical examiners deem is more protected for the players collectively,” McDaniel said. “So far as the determination that things were followed appropriately, that didn’t surprise me. That’s what I’ve been saying from the start.”
Prior to now two weeks, discourse — and consequences — around head trauma injuries spiked. The union dismissed the unaffiliated neurologist who evaluated Tagovailoa on the Bills game. Tony Dungy, a former coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts, was critical of the league after Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate was allowed to return against Kansas City on Oct. 2 after his head collided with a teammate’s torso.
Without Tagovailoa or Bridgewater, the Dolphins managed to compete early, trailing, 19-17, with just over six minutes remaining within the third quarter. However the Jets pulled away within the fourth, scoring a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Michael Carter to finish a 56-yard drive with about nine minutes remaining in the sport, then quickly scoring again after Thompson fumbled throughout the next drive at Miami’s 17-yard line. Jet defensive tackle Quinnen Williams returned the fumble to the 5-yard line.
Replacing Bridgewater, Thompson threw for 166 yards and an interception, and struggled to push the ball downfield. The Dolphins as an alternative relied on 113 rushing yards on 18 carries from Raheem Mostert and reverses thrown or handed off to receivers.
Thompson said the sport was first experience for live-action playing time, but he didn’t just like the circumstances.
“To see Tua go down the best way he did and to see Teddy go down the best way he did, it’s never something you would want on anybody,” Thompson said. “You hate to see it since it hurts. I care about those guys and wish to see them do well.”
The Jets’ second-year quarterback, Zach Wilson, threw for 210 yards on 14-for-21 passing and no scores while running backs Breece Hall and Carter combined for 118 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
Tagovailoa’s concussion damped excitement across the team after an off-season of flashy player signings and the team’s 3-0 start. Aided by Hill and left tackle Terron Armstead — perennial Pro Bowl players the Dolphins added in March — and the second-year receiver Jaylen Waddle, Tagovailoa ranked second within the N.F.L. in passing yards (925) and tied for third in touchdowns (eight) through Week 3. The team has now lost two consecutive games.
Bridgewater’s head injury adds fresh scrutiny to a organization embroiled in scandals. Brian Flores, who was fired as coach in January, claimed in a lawsuit against the N.F.L. that he was racially discriminated against as he sought a recent head coaching job and that the Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross pressured him to intentionally lose games to position the team to get the next draft pick. The N.F.L. in August concluded an investigation and said it found no evidence of “tanking.”
However the N.F.L. fined Ross $1.5 million and Miami must forfeit two future draft picks for violating the league’s tampering policy after he attempted to lure quarterback Tom Brady and Sean Payton, formerly the coach of the Latest Orleans Saints, to the Dolphins while they were under contract with other teams.