Tua was in on it, too.
That’s the most infuriating thing about Tua Tagovailoa’s serious head injury on Thursday night. The idea that the anger can’t really be directed at anyone, just out into the air. We went over this on Sunday. It seemed pretty clear that Tagovailoa had suffered a brain injury when he was stumbling around the Miami turf against the Bills. You knew it. I knew it. We all knew it.
Yet, later in the game, Tua returned. You wanted to know why. I wanted to know why, We all wanted to know why, including the NFLPA who opened an investigation into the why.
And yet, everyone had a cover story ready to go. Mike McDaniel had a story ready to go. It was his back. Tua had the same story, telling everyone his back seized up and that was the problem. And everyone got what they wanted. McDaniel got his No. 1 QB back on the field. Tua got to play. Dolphins fans got to watch their team beat maybe the Super Bowl favorite to go 3-0. Who was pressing the Dolphins to protect Tua from himself? That’s what everyone says they want, and yet here we are. Was the media, so dependent on its NFL access, really going to lead the charge? I’m sure ESPN’s Adam Schefter has a cell phone just for that.
We know how dangerous a second concussion in such a short amount of time can be. It’s not a secret anymore. Chris Nowinski, the chief executive of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, warned of the consequences of Tua returning to the field too soon before the game started.
The NFL and its players, medical staff, and coaches are just hiding in plain sight now. They used to keep it under wraps for fear that people would finally turn away if they knew the real dangers of football, the real consequences. That they would conclude this was too much to ask of people, the sport too barbaric to tolerate any longer.
Then it became public, just how dangerous football is, how destructive it is. We all know. We know what every player is risking. They know. And yet, what is the highest-rated program every week? Every year? It’s an NFL game. Who turned away? The money is still there. Advertisers are still desperate to be a part of the broadcast. So where is the impetus to change any of this?
Yes, it was horrifying to watch Tua go into the fencing response on national TV, and over and over again in replay.
But Tua was exactly where he wanted to be, on the field. He was where the coaches wanted him to be. He was where the fans wanted him to be. He was where fantasy owners wanted him to be.
Thankfully the Dolphins reported late last night on Twitter that Tua was able to move all his extremities.
There are certainly a lot of players on any NFL roster who feel like they have no choice. Coaches and front offices are always looking to replace a starter with someone younger and cheaper right about the time the first guy becomes a starter. We all know that the pressure is on just about everyone on the roster. Their dream, their job, is hanging by the thread of the next play.
But a starting quarterback? An up-and-coming, exciting one who looks to be the anchor of a franchise for as long as he wants? He’s got the power to say he doesn’t want to be out there this week. That he’s going to see the whole picture. That’s not to put the blame on him. The medical staff should have held him out on Sunday. They shouldn’t have let him on the plane for Thursday. Did they lie to him? Did they tell him the truth while also giving him the cover story to tell the press? The only consequence is that Tua could have died on Thursday. It was absolutely possible. But the team doctors let him play, because that’s what everyone wanted. Maybe they’ll get fired, or sued, or both. The team will hire new ones. They’ll do the same thing.
And yet who is really asking for change? We all say we are, and yet the NFL continues to print money from our patronage. You can be sure that if Tua had died on the field Thursday night, that wouldn’t have changed. So really, where’s the impetus?
It is likely that Tua knew what the deal was on Sunday, and on Thursday. And we can throw it up the chain to say the coaches should have known better, the medical team should have known better, the NFL should have known better. But those dominoes never stop. Why would the NFL care when the money pipeline never stops? So if there’s no pressure from the top, there’s no pressure.
This is football now. We know exactly what’s going on, everyone inside the lines does, too. And this is how it will continue to keep spinning. Quite simply, it’s too big to fail, no matter how many lives it actually ruins along the way.
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