The Miami Dolphins Thursday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals took a whole different tone late in the second quarter when quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was wheeled off the field on a stretcher.
The team announced that Tagovailoa sustained head and neck injuries and he was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for further evaluation, with the team adding he was conscious and had movement in all his extremities.
The team announced after the game that Tagovailoa was expected to be released from the hospital and travel back to South Florida with the team.
"It was a scary moment," head coach Mike McDaniel said after the Dolphins' 27-15 loss. "He was evaluated for a concussion and he's in the concussion protocol. That was an emotional moment. That is not part of the deal that anyone who signs up for even though you know it's a possibility in football to have something that you have to get taken off on a stretcher. All of his teammates, myself, we're all very, very concerned. So the best news we can get is that everything is checked out that he didn't have any anything more serious than a concussion."
Tagovailoa was injured when he was taken down by Cincinnati defensive lineman Josh Tupou, who grabbed him by the waist and twisted him to the ground. Tua's head hit the surface at Paycor Stadium.
Tagovailoa was listed as questionable on the final injury report before the game because of the back and ankle injuries he sustained in the 21-19 victory against the Buffalo at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday.
Two plays before he was injured, Tagovailoa took a hit to his ankles that drew a roughing-the-passer penalty.
After his injury, his teammates gathered around him on the field before he was placed on a stabilizing board and carted off the field.
Before he left, Tua was 8-for-14 for 110 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
Tagovailoa was off to a tremendous start to the 2022 season, ranking second in passing yards and passer rating coming into the Cincinnati game.
Veteran Teddy Bridgewater replaced Tagovailoa at quarterback, just like he did for three offensive snaps in the Buffalo game.
Former Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, serving as one of the pregame and halftime analysts for the Amazon Prime Video telecast of the game, was visibly shaken by the development when he spoke at halftime, calling it "one of the toughest things I've ever seen."
The injury comes while the NFLPA is conducting an investigation into whether proper concussion protocol was followed in the aftermath of Tua's injury against Buffalo when he also landed on his head after being shoved by Bills linebacker Matt Milano.
While his injury right after it happened was described as a head injury, head coach Mike McDaniel and Tua both said after the game the issue involved his back and McDaniel said Monday that Tua was not in the concussion protocol.
He continued to insist after the game Thursday night that Tua did not sustain a concussion against Buffalo.
"Every single NFL game that is played, there's an independent specialist that specializes in the specialty of brain matter," McDaniel said. "So yeah, for me, as long as I'm coaching here, I'm not going to fudge that whole situation if there's any sort of inclination that someone has a concussion, they go into the concussion protocol. It's very strict. People don't very or stray. We don't mess with that. I never have and as long as I'm the head coach, it will never be an issue that you guys have to worry about."