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Ravens coach John Harbaugh: ‘Couldn’t believe what I saw’ with Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa’s head injury

Baltimore Sun 9/30/2022 Childs Walker, Baltimore Sun

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he “couldn’t believe what I saw last night” when discussing the head injury suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on Thursday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The frightening injury, suffered four days after Tagovailoa hit his head in Miami’s previous game, inspired a swift, fierce debate about the NFL’s handling of concussion protocols.

Harbaugh did not analyze the specifics of Tagovailoa’s situation but expressed confidence in the Ravens’ strict handling of head and neck injuries.

“It was just something that was astonishing to see,” he said. “I’ve been coaching for 40 years in college and the NFL. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I really appreciate our doctors, appreciate our owner, appreciate our general manager from the standpoint that there’s two things you have to keep in mind: One of them is, a lot of time players want to play. Sometimes, you just have to tell them no. No has got to be the answer. … Then sometimes, guys might be there physically where they’re sound, but they’re not confident yet. They’re not quite there yet, and we’ve had that this year. We’ve had both those situations this year. You don’t put them out there until they’re ready.”

He noted that the Ravens held out wide receiver Devin Duvernay for the conclusion of their Week 2 loss to the Dolphins despite the fact he had not showed symptoms when he went into concussion protocol, a six-step evaluation by a team physician and unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants.

“I think [our doctors] would probably call themselves conservative, but that’s what they should be,” Harbaugh said. “The other part of it, [what happened] last night, was not something you want to see.”

Tagovailoa hit his head on the ground in the first half of Miami’s game Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. He got up but wobbled and nearly collapsed as he tried to jog back to the huddle. He returned to play in the second half, and the Dolphins said he was dealing with a back injury, not head trauma.

He started four days later against the Bengals but hit his head again when he was whipped to the turf in the second quarter. That led to a frightening scene which ended with an immobilized Tua being driven off the field on a stretcher and taken to taken to University of Cincinnati Medical Center. The Dolphins announced he had remained conscious, with movement in all extremities, and he was discharged later in the evening in time to fly back to Miami with the team.

Speaking to local reporters Friday, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said Tagovailoa was cleared “by several layers of medical professionals” of having “any head injury whatsoever” against Buffalo. He was listed as questionable to play entering Thursday’s game with back and ankle injuries.

“If there would have been anything lingering with his head, of course I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I prematurely put someone out there in harm’s way,” McDaniel said. “This is a relationship I have with this human being. I take that seriously.”

McDaniel did not have a timetable for Tagovailoa’s return.

“It was scary,” said Ravens defensive tackle Calais Campbell, a 15-year veteran who has served in leadership positions with the NFL Players Association. The union has said it’s investigating the circumstances that led to Tagovailoa returning to the Bills game.

“I think there are a lot of things other than concussions that can cause serious issues as well that we need to evolve on,” Campbell said. “I’m not a doctor. I don’t know what the response was with Tua that made him think he should be comfortable playing football. But I do know that something was wrong, and from the looks of it, he shouldn’t have been out there. And we definitely need to take a look at that, to figure out how a player who was in a compromised situation was put on the field and put at risk for more serious injuries. That’s not OK. The league has to take a strong look at that.”

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