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Former NFL OL Explains Why He Took Tua’s Injury ‘Personal’

Sports Illustrated 10/1/2022 Wilton Jackson
© Provided by Sports Illustrated

When former Lions offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby the injury to the Dolphins’ quarterback, it brought back memories of his own health issues and alleged mistreatment by the team.

As fans sat in silence at Paycor Stadium when Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa laid on the ground after hitting his head during a tackle made by Bengals nose tackle Josh Tupou, it brought back a memory for Lions offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby.

In August 2021, Detroit waived Crosby, a former fifth-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft, after he played in 38 games for the Lions.

But with the addition of Penei Sewell in last year’s NFL draft and Taylor Decker under contract, Crosby’s future was in jeopardy. The 27-year-old had suffered a hamstring injury during training camp that affected his play during Detroit’s preseason action ahead of the 2021 season.

On Thursday night, after seeing Tagovailoa stretchered off the field with head and neck injuries—just four days after seeing him leave the game against the Bills before returning after he cleared the league’s concussion protocol—Crosby reflected on his own experience with NFL medical staff.

According to Crosby, before he played in his final preseason game against the Colts, he and his agent knew something was wrong with his back. When he asked Detroit’s medical team to look at his back, he said he was turned away each time. “Even when they did the follow up mri on my hamstring I asked three different people … if I could have my low back checked out while I was in the [sic] MRI machine. Shockingly enough, they never did,” Crosby tweeted.

“I had damn near a whole medical staff look me in my eyes and tell me nothing was wrong with my spine,” Crosby continued. “Then management tell me [sic] I’m faking my back pain. Even after a SPINE SPECIALIST informed them my spine was severely damaged.”

Crosby added that after he took an epidural shot in 2021, he suffered from headaches and often felt horrible. He said that would inform the Lions interim trainer of those issues but nothing happened from the exchanges between the two. 

“He would essentially just tell me he hopes it gets better. … And from there reached out to someone from the hospital and had to schedule a blood patch because through Web MD I realized I was having spinal fluid leak from my epidural shot,” Crosby tweeted.

A few days later, after many attempts to communicate his pains, Crosby added that the trainer called him acting “baffled” that he was in “such torturous misery and acted like it was my fault for not communicating it to him even [sic] though everyday I told him I had a bad headache.”

Crosby later tweeted that he made “these comments as someone who is physically and mentally dealing with the realization my health will never be the same again at only 27 and the negligence of a professional medical staff and the selfishness of a teams management played an instrumental role in that.”

He added a link to an All Lions story about the team firing head athletic trainer Dave Granito last August, saying, “Teams will happily do just enough to say they tried and cover themselves legally. Rather than actually take care of the player. Then if the medical staff does try to put the players health first, they will just fire them. I.E. Dave Granito.”

Crosby had spinal fusion surgery last December, and has been advised by some doctors to give up football entirely, as he works through a year-long rehab. As of July, when he spoke to the Detroit Free-Press about his injuries and the end of his Lions tenure, he had not been able to lift weights in a year. He recounted general manager Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell saying he was “bad for the team” because of sitting out 2021 OTAs, and said that Holmes later “sarcastically thanked” him for “playing through an injury that I thought I had,” when the team waived him.

“In all honesty, it made me just put in reflective of like why the team has been the way it’s been,” he said. “They truly just don’t care about the players, and it’s so disheartening to say that because those first three years, I truly loved every moment of it. And just have been so, for me, incredibly grateful for that opportunity.”

The NFLPA launched an investigation into Miami’s handling of Tagovailoa’s concussion check on Sunday after he returned to the game against Buffalo. Following Thursday's injuries, NFL players association executive director DeMaurice Smith told reporters that the players union plans to “pursue every legal option” as it continues its investigation into how the injury to Tagovailoa was handled over the last week.

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