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The NFL Is What We Thought It Was

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Last Sunday, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was forced to exit the game in the second quarter of Miami’s game with the Buffalo Bills after what looked to anyone watching like a serious blow to the head. Tagovailoa appeared to slam his helmet on the turf after being knocked down by a defensive player, got up, and then wobbled and fell again to his knees.

But Tagovailoa did not stay out of the game for very long. According to the Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, he was evaluated by “several layers of medical professionals” for any sign of a head injury, cleared to go, and eventually finished the game.

And then, on Thursday night, this happened:

That’s a 24-year-old man losing control of his arms and hands on national television in what is known as a “fencing”—a gruesome symptom of severe concussions that football fans have come to learn about in recent years as the extent of the NFL’s concussion problem, long covered-up by the league, has come into the light. Tagovailoa did not return to the game after that. He was taken to a hospital and evaluated for head and neck injuries and then, according to Dolphins beat reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques, Tagovailoa sat next to McDaniel on the flight back to Florida and laughed at the movie MacGruber with his coach.

But there’s not a lot of laughter about the situation in the football universe. In response to the MacGruber revelation, former NFL player Will Blackmon shared that he’d been ordered to stay off his phone after his own concussion. Avoiding screens is common advice; so is avoiding airplanes. 

Another retired NFLer, Rob Ninkovich, said on ESPN that the league and the team “should be sick to their stomach” about how Tagovailoa’s injuries were handled. 

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