The professional football consultant who authorized Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to play during the Sept. 25 game has been fired, a source familiar with the matter said.
The adviser, who was not named, gave his approval after Tagovailoa hit his head on the grass during Miami’s 27-15 win in Buffalo on Sunday. After that, the player tripped and fell to his knees.
Nevertheless, the quarterback was allowed to return to the game in the third quarter, and he played again on Thursday in the Dolphins’ home defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals, a game in which Tagovailoa’s head hit the turf during a sack by defensive tackle Josh Tupou.
Tagovailoa, 24, was taken off the field on a stretcher and is offside indefinitely.
NBC Sports and its Pro Football Talk Platform first reported termination of the unaffiliated neurotrauma counselor, or UNC.
The counselors are jointly hired by the players’ union, the NFL Players Association and the league, following the pro-soccer protocol for concussion, which aims to prevent the type of traumatic brain injury that has plagued the sport for decades.
According to the The NFL’s Concussion Protocolsa team’s unaffiliated neurotrauma counselor must be “a physician impartial and independent of any club, certified in neurology, emergency medicine, physical medicine, and rehabilitation, or any primary care CAQ [certificates of added qualification] sports medicine certified physician or board eligible or board certified in neurological surgery, and has documented competence and experience in the treatment of acute head injuries.”
The advisor was not the only official involved in clearing Tagovailoa to play.
A league source says the NFL and NFLPA held joint interviews Friday afternoon with those involved in freeing the quarterback to play Sunday, including the club staff and the consultant who was fired.
In a joint statement, the NFL and union said their investigation into the decision to allow Tagovailoa to play Sunday was ongoing, but both entities agree that the league’s concussion protocol should be updated to address “gross motor instability.” better define and identify the signs to prevent further injury.
According to the competition’s concussion protocol, a display of gross motor instability should prompt a concussion evaluation by medical personnel.
If the staff, including the unaffiliated neurotrauma counselor, determine that the screen has no neurological cause, the player can play again.
The ugly injuries of Sunday and Thursday led to much criticism of the system and the personnel responsible for preventing such incidents.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw last night,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Friday. “I couldn’t believe what I saw last Sunday. It was just something that was amazing to watch. I’ve been coaching for 40 years now, college in the NFL, almost 40, and I’ve never seen anything like it. I couldn’t believe what I saw.”
Tagovailoa was rechecked every day leading up to Thursday’s game, Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told NFL Media.
Following Thursday’s injury, Tagovailoa was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for evaluation before being sent home with his team. Dolphin coach Mike McDaniel said it is not yet clear when Tagovailoa can return to the field.
The team’s next game is on October 9 against the New York Jets in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
David K. Lic and Dennis Romero contributed.