NFL Players Association

Latest On AFC Playoff Picture; Owners To Meet On Friday

Earlier this evening, Mike Florio of reported that the NFL’s Competition Committee was set to vote on the league’s approach to the AFC playoffs. It sounds like the decision will now come down to the owners. Florio reports (on Twitter) that the league’s owners will meet on Friday regarding seeding in the AFC. ESPN’s Dianna Russini echoes that latest development (on Twitter), adding that there will likely be a resolution before the weekend.

[RELATED: NFL Considering Adding Eighth Playoff Team Amid Bills-Bengals Fallout?]

With the NFL likely eyeing a scenario where the Bills and Bengals complete the regular season having only played 16 games (vs. the 17 played by the rest of the league), the Competition Committee was expected to come up with a solution. Considering the unprecedented event, it was uncertain if the Competition Committee’s decision would be binding, and Florio expected the final decision would ultimately lie with commissioner Roger Goodell, who would have the ability to veto any scenario.

Instead, it’s sounding like the final decision will likely come down to the league’s owners. A source told Florio that the owners will have to “resolve some “controversial” aspects of finalizing the plan.” It’s uncertain if the vote will require majority or supermajority.

Among the possibilities that have been floated around are a neutral-site AFC Championship game or the No. 1 seed’s ability to choose either a first-round bye or home-field advantage over the No. 2 seed. One scenario that probably won’t happen is the addition of an eighth seed. Florio notes that revamping the postseason “would require collective bargaining with the NFL Players Association.” Indeed, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith told Ari Meirov that the NFL hasn’t approached the Players Association about this scenario (Twitter link).

In his initial report, Florio mentioned that the Bills/Bengals game has a “small theoretical chance” of still being played, especially following the good news with Bills safety Damar Hamlin. This scenario would require the NFL to reconfigure the postseason schedule.

Dolphins Cleared In Concussion Protocol Review

For the second time this season, the Dolphins were the subject of a joint NFL-NFLPA investigation into their handling of the league’s updated concussion protocols. As was the case the first time, the team has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The review came in the wake of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa reporting concussion symptoms one day after the Dolphins’ loss to the Packers in Week 16. The third-year passer was never evaluated for a head injury during the course of the game, one in which he threw three late interceptions en route to a loss which hurt Miami’s playoff chances.

Tagovailoa’s concussion history dating back to earlier in the campaign – which prompted the league’s new protocols being enacted and resulted in the first investigation into the Dolphins – has forced Miami to turn to veteran Teddy Bridgewater as its starter for tomorrow’s contest against the Patriots. This latest issue has also invited increased speculation regarding Tagovailoa’s short- and long-term future in the NFL, as the former top-five pick has suffered two (or, potentially, three) concussions in a matter of months in addition to his availability concerns entering the league.

“The NFL and NFLPA concluded their joint review of the application of concussion protocol involving [Tagovailoa] in Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers,” a statement from the league and union reads. “The joint review determined the protocol was not triggered… The review established that symptoms of a concussion were neither exhibited nor reported until the following day at which time the team medical personnel appropriately evaluated and placed Mr. Tagovailoa in the concussion protocol.”

The Dolphins enter Week 17 with an 8-7 record, due in no small part to the significant improvement the Alabama product has shown this season alongside new head coach Mike McDaniel and an offense which added wideout Tyreek Hill, among others, in the offseason. They will now look to snap their four-game losing streak with Bridgewater under center as he makes his first start since Week 5, where he suffered a concussion of his own on Miami’s opening offensive snap.

NFLPA Alleging Collusion Over Fully Guaranteed QB Contracts

The Browns’ acquisition of Deshaun Watson was the most controversial storyline of the 2022 offseason, in no small part due to the nature of the contract he signed upon being traded to Cleveland. That five-year, $230MM deal was fully guaranteed, leading many to wonder if a new precedent had been set for high-end quarterbacks in future deals.

League owners were reportedly upset over the fact that Watson – given the legal battle he was facing at the time over allegations of sexual misconduct which ultimately led to an 11-game suspension to begin his Browns tenure – received such as deal far eclipsing even the one Kirk Cousins signed in Minnesota in 2018 (three years, $84MM) which was also fully guaranteed.

It’s like, ‘Damn, I wish they hadn’t guaranteed the whole contract.’ I don’t know that he should’ve been the first guy to get a fully guaranteed contract,” Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said in March“To me, that’s something that is groundbreaking, and it’ll make negotiations harder with others.”

Remarks such as those have led the NFLPA to accuse the league of collusion on the matter of full guarantees, as detailed by The Athletic’s Kayln Kahler (subscription required). The union has filed a system arbitration proceeding which will be overseen by Christopher Droney (Twitter links via Mark Maske of the Washington Post). Such action will take place confidentially, which at this point obscures what direct evidence (if any) the NFLPA has to make its case.

In the months following the Watson deal, two mega-contracts were handed out: Kyler Murray‘s extension in Arizona (five years, $230.5MM), and Denver’s long-term investment in Russell Wilson (five years, $245MM). While each pact contains sizeable guarantees, neither come near the figure the Browns handed Watson. As a result, it appeared that the league was making a concerted effort to distance themselves from Cleveland and make the Watson deal an outlier.

Per a league memo distributed to team owners and executives in the wake of the allegations, the NFLPA is arguing that “[t]he expectation was that fully guaranteed contracts would now become the competition driven norm for the top players in the League, including quarterbacks, negotiating new contracts,” and that “NFL owners and/or League executives discussed not agreeing to any additional player contracts with fully guaranteed salaries” at the August owners meeting.

Most notably, the union is requesting that the arbitrator allow “certain quarterbacks who have been adversely affected by the collusive agreement” to exit their existing contracts. That could include passers like Murray and Wilson, but also Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. The latter is technically scheduled for free agency this coming offseason, but is universally expected to receive the franchise tag in the absence of a long-term deal. The sticking point in negotiations from the summer was the degree to which the Ravens would guarantee Jackson’s second contract.

If successful, the union would achieve an entirely unprecedented feat in having existing contracts voided and/or damages awarded. For that reason (in addition to the lack of known concrete evidence in their case), Kahler’s sources are highly skeptical that such action will take place. As one executive stressed, league owners remain adamant that the NFL does not follow other major North American sports leagues in guaranteeing player contracts in full across the board.

While this news is certainly noteworthy, it is not entirely surprising. While speaking to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk last month, outgoing NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith spoke about the potential for legal action on the point of collusion.

“Sometimes your best evidence comes from people who make comments that look like they are careless but are actually rooted in something factual,” he said against the backdrop of the league’s fall meetings taking place. “I am being a little bit cagey, but anytime we see what has been occurring in the markets and we hear comments that validate those concerns, we have never shied away from exercising both our legal rights and our collective bargaining rights to protect our players and people shouldn’t be surprised if something happens in the near future.”

This represents the first formal collusion allegations since those made by Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid in 2017 and 2018, respectively. They ultimately resulted in a 2019 settlement. The outcome of this process – which neither the league nor the union has commented on – will be worth monitoring as another offseason (and, therefore, a new crop of QBs eligible for monster extensions) draws near.

Matt Schaub On NFLPA Executive Director Aspirations

With NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith set to transition away from his position as early as March 2023, the union’s search for his replacement is underway. The most prominent name to emerge as his potential successor is Matt Schaub

The longtime Falcons and Texans quarterback is in his second year of retirement, and has been public about his intention of leading the player’s union. He expounded on his candidacy and top priorities in the event he lands the job in an interview with Pro Football Network.

“After playing for 17 years and being a part of the union for 19 years and seeing the impact the union has on players’ lives, both while in the game and once they retire, the physical toll, the mental toll, the emotional toll and how the financial side of the game impacts everyone from the top of the rosters to the bottom,” he said, “it has opened my eyes to want to advocate and help and lead the union to a place that all players need to be in, especially physically as they move beyond the game.”

To no surprise given those remarks, the 41-year-old doubled down on long-term health care as his chief concern, naming lifelong coverage as a target. He also referenced the compensation levels for end-of-the-roster players, along with the split of league revenues between the league and players (central issues in the last round of CBA negotiations) as focal points in upcoming agreements.

In addition to Schaub, other contenders for the position could include NFLPA president J.C. Tretter and senior director of player affairs Don Davis. They, too, have a background as NFL players, something which Smith does not. In Tretter’s case, his status in the union was widely seen as a key factor in his release from the Browns this offseason, and the lack of free agent interest which led to his retirement. Davis, meanwhile, spent more than a decade in the league and has played a leading role in a number of union events under his current title.

Reflections In The Wake Of New Concussion Protocol

The NFL and NFLPA released a joint statement yesterday, the day after the Players Association urged the league to accept the new language for the NFL-NFLPA Concussion Evaluation and Management Protocol that they wanted in place for this weekend’s slate of games. The statement showed the two parties reaching a mutual conclusion concerning both the nature of the changes to the protocol and the findings of the investigation into the injuries of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Just because the two parties came to an agreement doesn’t necessarily mean everyone involved is now on the same page. The NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, was quoted as he spoke passionately on a Zoom call, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Sills flew to the defense of the medical professionals involved in clearing Tagovailoa, saying that they operated with “absolute integrity.” He claimed that they all see “a patient and not a player” in that kind of situation and that “no one involved cares about the position of the player or the score of a game.” He then moved to defend the protocol, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, saying that it “is not broken” but “can always improve.”

In response to the firing of the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant in Tagovailoa’s case, Sills claimed that “it was extremely unfortunate to make an action prior to review being completed.” According to Rapoport, Sills’ sentiments were echoed by the NFL executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy, Jeff Miller, who was quoted saying, “It’s not something we would have done and didn’t. We never supported terminating him.” Miller deferred an explanation to the union, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, claiming it was the NFLPA’s decision to terminate the UNC despite protocols being followed.

Retired NFL center and president of the Players Association JC Tretter defended the union’s decision to terminate the UNC saying that, while the UNC technically followed the protocols, the NFLPA does “not believe this was a meaningful application of the protocols.” Tretter pointed out that “nobody, including the NFL, believes (Tagovailoa) should have been put back in the game,” seemingly insinuating that utilizing the loophole of Tagovailoa’s back injury as an alternative cause of gross motor instability, despite not taking time to examine him for a back injury, was a fireable offense.

Sills also spoke to the effects of the new protocol. He confirmed that, with the wording of the new protocol disqualifying any players showing symptoms of ataxia, Tagovailoa would’ve been effectively ruled out, according to Rapoport. He also warned of some potential negative consequences to the new wording, according to Pelissero, pointing out that “players diagnosed with ataxia will be treated the same as others with concussions, including needing independent neurologist clearance to play again.” He also pointed out that it would be “extremely unlikely” that a diagnosed player could clear all the steps required in order to return in just four days, hinting that the new protocol would also have held Tagovailoa out of the Thursday night game that saw him succumb to further head trauma.

Sills also acknowledged that, with the new wording, there will likely be some players who end up getting pulled even if they don’t have a concussion, according to Pelissero. This is one of the first major steps we’ve seen towards an actually conservative handling of head injuries, and it’s a tradeoff that the NFL and NFLPA will readily accept. Sills told the media, “We’d rather hold someone out that doesn’t have a brain injury than put someone out there that does have a concussion and we weren’t able to diagnose it,” a sentiment many who preach “player safety” have been pounding the table with for years.

The new protocol is now in place and will hopefully lead to more examples of protecting the league’s players. The protocol is only the first step, though, as now the league has to ensure that everybody involved in the process is retrained to follow the new checklist, released first yesterday by Pelissero. Even the two steps together will not guarantee that the protocol will be followed entirely to a T without fail. Just last week, Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate returned to a game after suffering a blow to the head and exhibiting “injury behavior” without so much as an examination, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports. Florio wrote that Sills disagreed with the spotters’ conclusion that Brate was struck in the shoulder and not the head, and that Brate should have been examined for a concussion before re-entering the game. So even with the perfect protocols in place, human-error still persists, and the league will need to take steps in monitoring cases like this and taking action, when necessary.

Finally, we can turn our attention to the larger picture, in terms of an entity to which even the NFL must answer. The recent controversy reportedly drew the attention of the US Congress as Bill Pascrell, Jr., a member of the House of Representatives and head of the Brain Injury Task Force sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross inquiring about what was to be done to address player safety. The letter showed fundamental misunderstandings of the league’s policy and procedures, according to Florio, but still rightly demanded that action be taken. Pascrell’s response to the action taken last night has yet to be seen, but the entire situation may not be fully put to bed until the fat lady (Congress) sings.

For now, though, the NFL is in action-mode, putting into effect their new protocol. The rest of us will have to wait and see; see if the league acts more conservatively, if the danger of brain reinjury wanes, if player safety will take precedence over profit and product. The league is under the microscope and will hopefully become more proactive than reactive as a result.

NFL, NFLPA Agree On Concussion Protocols, Conclude Investigation

OCTOBER 8: In response to the pleas of the NFLPA, the NFL has agreed to the terms of the new NFL-NFLPA Concussion Evaluation and Management Protocol, which will be in effect for this weekend’s slate of games, as first reported by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

The changes that were agreed upon added “ataxia,” defined as an “abnormality of balance/stability, motor coordination or dysfunctional speech caused by a neurological issue,” to a list of mandatory “no-go” symptoms, according to the two parties’ joint statement, first released by Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

The joint statement also seems to announce the conclusions of the investigation into Tagovailoa’s situation:

“While the investigation determined that the team medical staff and unaffiliated medical professionals followed the steps of the Protocol as written, the NFL and NFLPA agree that the outcome in this case is not what was intended when the Protocols were drafted.”

This essentially states that the individuals involved in clearing Tagovailoa were able to circumvent the intentions of the concussion protocol to return the quarterback to the field without explicitly disobeying any guidelines of the protocol. This obvious loophole, which allowed alternative causes of gross motor instability to help a player return to play despite showing symptoms of a neurological issue, was what both parties agreed to address in updating the protocol.

From this point on, any player “diagnosed with ‘ataxia’ by any club or neutral physician involved in the application of the Concussion Protocol…will be prohibited from returning to the game, and will receive the follow-up care required by the Protocol.”

It’s wishful thinking, but perhaps this will neatly wrap up the situation surrounding Tagovailoa and the concussion protocol. The flaws in the protocol were addressed, the responsible parties who put Tagovailoa in danger were punished, and the NFL and NFLPA were able to come to an agreement on the conclusions of both situations. It certainly is not the end of health and mental health concerns in the NFL, but it lays a groundwork for how to handle these situations in the future.

OCTOBER 7: There have been some interesting updates in the past couple of days to the situations surrounding both the progress of changing the NFL’s concussion protocols and the progress of the case surrounding the league’s handling of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa‘s injury. Yesterday, former All-Pro cornerback and current member of the NFL Players Association’s Executive Committee Richard Sherman put forth the committee’s belief that “the concussion protocols were not followed” in Tagovailoa’s case, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports. 

Both the NFL and the NFLPA reportedly hoped to announce the results of their investigation before this week’s Thursday night football game, but, since the two parties have yet to come to an agreement on what transpired or what consequences will result, no announcement was made. Sherman made the union’s opinion known and reiterated that they would like for “the players to be treated like patients, not like football players who are intent on being cleared to play football as quickly as possible.” Sherman questioned the NFL’s medical doctor’s stance that an “abundance of caution” was utilized, questioning what “an aggressive approach” would look like.

If the two sides are unable to reach an agreement about what occurred and what should be done about it, the NFLPA will be able to file a grievance which may lead to an arbitration to resolve the case. The investigation “remains ongoing and no resolution is imminent,” according to a tweet from Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

There seems to be more agreement and collaboration concerning the proposed new concussion protocols. A statement from the NFLPA, first reported by Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, states that the “union has agreed to change the concussion protocols to protect players from returning to play in the case of any similar incident” to what was seen with Tagovailoa. The statement also puts forth a desire that the new protocols be put into effect as soon as possible, before the weekend’s slate of NFL games, and urges the league to accept the change in protocol, as well, in time to make that happen.

A statement from the NFL in response to the NFLPA’s statement, and first reported by Pelissero, seems to agree without really agreeing. The statement says that the league agrees “that changes to the joint NFL-NFLPA protocols are necessary to further enhance player safety,” but doesn’t say outright that they agree to the proposed changes. They also don’t blatantly state that they will put the changes into effect, instead claiming that they have “spoken to members of the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee and the leadership of the Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultants and Independent Certified Athletic Trainers who serve as spotters to discuss these likely changes.”

The proposed changes center on essentially closing the “loophole” on gross motor instability. The NFL has agreed to modify the protocols but has yet to approve the final language. Their responding statement seems to be an attempt to temper the expectations of the Players Association. While it would be ideal to implement the new protocol as soon as this weekend, the actual process of ensuring the protocol is applied consistently across the league requires re-training all involved members of the medical parties listed above in the NFL’s statement.

The league seems to be attempting to show the NFLPA that they are working towards implementing the necessary changes as soon as possible, without guaranteeing that there will be no bumps on the road of that implementation this weekend. The wheels appear to be in motion towards change, but the road is a bit longer than most would have hoped and requires a bit more time to travel.

Latest On Amended Concussion Protocols

The league is inching closer to officially amending its concussion protocol, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. The update, provided by NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills, reports that the NFL and the Players Association are “still discussing final language and unintended consequences” of the new concussion protocol. 

The assumption is that the changes that require specific language to avoid unintended consequences would be the ongoing discussions over “gross motor instability” and its interpretation. Unchanged, the current protocols allow what happened with Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. In Tagovailoa’s situation, the team was able to pinpoint a back injury as the source of Tagovailoa’s stumbling, allowing him to return to the game despite the fact that he underwent concussion protocols in the days after the game leading up to the Thursday night contest.

The amended protocols would not allow the stumbling to be assigned to an injury that would permit a player to return to a game. Instead, any displayed gross motor instability would result in a player being removed from a game. While it sounds like that could set a dangerous precedent wherein anybody who trips and falls is taken out of the game, that’s exactly why the NFLPA and the league are spending so much time on the language to avoid “unintended consequences.”

The amendment is also intended to err on the conservative side. Dr. Sills was quoted saying, “Our goal is to get them out and not let them play.” He emphasized that, despite the firing of the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant that cleared Tagovailoa to return from his first injury, the team physicians “have the final say in diagnosing concussions and return to play.” He also posits that there is “no team doctor anywhere in the league who’s going with a differing opinion.”

Dr. Sills put forth that the new protocols could go into effect as soon as Week 5 of this season. He cautioned, though, that there should be an emphasis on educating how to apply the new protocol consistently league-wide: from team physicians to UNC’s to certified athletic trainers who are employed to spot potential head trauma.

As for Tagovailoa’s case and the investigation into the situation, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Tagovailoa is expected to be interviewed about the sequence of events last week. Schefter reports also that the investigation is expected to continue for another week or two and that the results of the investigation are still expected to be announced “almost immediately after” the investigation has concluded.

NFLPA Beginning Search For DeMaurice Smith Successor

The NFLPA has had stability at the top for over a decade, but it will have a new leader in the relatively near future. Executive director DeMaurice Smith is currently in his final term, and the union is beginning the search process for his successor. 

Smith, 58, was re-elected last October. The vote which extended his stay came in the wake of the latest CBA negotiations, which saw a notable split amongst the players. Smith received the minimum 22 votes required to retain his position, but his final term is expected to be brief.

The NFLPA’s executive director since 2009, Smith will be replaced by no later than 2025, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. He adds, however, that Smith’s transition to a consulting role will more likely take place along a quicker timeline than that. The union’s search for his successor has just begun, with a vote being possible to take place as early as March 2023.

To date, only one candidate has emerged: former Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Schaub. The 41-year-old’s playing career ended after the 2020 season, the final year of his second stint with the Falcons. Schaub – who also spent seven seasons as the Texans’ starter – has been a vocal critic of the two most recent CBAs, and their impact on players.

“It is unprecedented what we’ve done the last two CBAs, with the tenure of the deals, which is almost triple the average career length of most players,” he said recently, via Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic (subscription required). “These past two, it’s been too long based on what has shifted hands and shifted across the table.”

The most recent CBA was marked by a widespread increase in player compensation, particularly at the low end of the pay grade, in exchange for the regular season being expended to 17 games. New TV deals in particular have, on the other hand, led to major spikes in franchise values, as demonstrated most recently by the record-shattering sale of the Broncos this summer.

To find a successor, NFLPA president J.C. Tretter, along with the 10 other members of the union’s executive committee and three most senior player representatives will compile a list of two to four candidates. A general vote amongst all player reps will determine Smith’s replacement. With the current CBA set to run through March 2031, though, there does not need to be much urgency in the search process.

NFL, NFLPA Agree To Amend Concussion Protocols

In the wake of the controversy surrounding Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the team’s handling of his injuries this week, the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to make changes to the league’s in-game concussion protocols.

A joint statement released on Saturday reads, “The joint NFL-NFLPA investigation into the application of the Concussion Protocol involving Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remains ongoing. Therefore, we have not made any conclusions about medical errors or protocol violations.”

While that remains true, the investigation has already led to the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant involved in Tagovailoa’s case being terminated by the player’s union. A number of “mistakes” were cited as the reason that action was taken; adding more detail on that front, Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network report that the UNC was fired due to “his failure to understand his role and hostility during the investigation process.”

At the center of the controversy is the fact that, under current protocols, the matter of “gross motor instability” being showed by players is subject to interpretation with respect to its cause. In Tagovailoa’s case on Sunday, his notable stumble after taking a hit was ultimately deemed a back injury, rather than a concussion. After the amended protocols come into effect, however, any player demonstrating a similar loss of balance will automatically be ruled out, regardless of team medical staff’s determinations on the specifics of an injury.

“The NFL and the NFLPA agree that modifications to the Concussion Protocol are needed to enhance player safety,” the statement continues. It adds that the league and union “share a strong appreciation for the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants who contribute their time and expertise to our game solely to advance player safety. This program has made our game safer for the athletes who play if for the past twelve seasons.”

The amendments are expected to be formally ratified in the coming days, and could take effect in time for Week 5. Over the course of the remaining games on this week’s slate, though, teams will no doubt proceed with enhanced caution in the event of any head injuries which take place.

Rapoport and Pelissero add, meanwhile, that Tagovailoa (who has been in concussion protocol since being carted off the field on Thursday) has undergone a series of tests, all of which have “come back clean.” By the time he is cleared to return, new regulations will likely officially be in place to try and ensure a repeat of his situation does not occur.

NFLPA To Investigate Handling Of Tua Tagovailoa Concussion Protocol

There was a moment during today’s AFC East matchup in Miami where it didn’t look like the Dolphins would have quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for the second half of the game due to a potential concussion. Tagovailoa underwent the required concussion protocol and returned for the second half to lead his team to a win over the division rival Bills. The NFL Players Association, though, is reportedly initiating an investigation into the handling of the concussion check, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. 

Tagovailoa received a late hit from Bills linebacker Matt Milano around the two-minute mark of the second quarter. When Tagovailoa had released the ball, he was pushed backwards by Milano and, upon landing on his back, Tagovailoa’s head snapped back against the turf. As he hurried back downfield to rejoin his offense, Tagovailoa appeared to slip or stumble, prompting the officials to remove him from the game to undergo the league-mandated concussion protocol. Tagovailoa came back out with the Dolphins offense for the second half and proceeded to lead his team to a victory.

Instigating an investigation insinuates that the NFLPA has some notion that the protocol for Tagovailoa’s safety was not completely aboveboard. Whether they believe the results were influenced to allow a potentially concussed player to return to play or whether they believe the results were ignored, the NFLPA clearly wants to make sure that Tagovailoa was not put in any danger by returning to the game.

Tagovailoa had a different story for his injury and stumble, according to Josh Alper of NBC Sports, telling the media, “On the quarterback sneak, (I) kinda got my legs caught under someone and they were trying to push back. It felt like I hyperextended my back. On the next play, I hit my back and kinda hurt it. Then I got up and that’s kinda when I stumbled. For the most part, I’m good. Passed whatever concussion protocol they had.”

This would excuse the Dolphins in the eyes of the Players Association for the time being, if true. While it might be questionable to send your quarterback onto the field with back issues, there is no league mandate preventing it. After the game, Tagovailoa credited adrenaline with his ability to continue playing after sustaining the back injury but did admit that he felt “uncomfortable.”

Regardless of the results of the investigation, Miami may be without its young lefty for its next contest. If Tagovailoa finds it harder to perform without the rush of adrenaline, he will have only a short period of time to recover, as the Dolphins are set to play the Bengals on Thursday night this week.