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Who is investigating the Dolphins handling of Tua Tagovailoa, what is the current status of the investigation

The Miami Dolphins are under the spotlight for their handling of Tua Tagovailoa’s injuries in Week 3 and Week 4. We explain where things stand and what is next.

Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins warms up prior to playing the Buffalo Bills at Hard Rock Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins have seen quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffer significant injuries twice in the span of four days. He suffered an injury in a Week 3 Sunday game against the Buffalo Bills, and then suffered another injury four days later on Thursday Night Football against the Cincinnati Bengals to open Week 4.

There is a whole lot of commotion at the moment about what the Dolphins may or may not have known with the first injury, and it is only growing in light of the second injury. On Thursday, Tagovailoa suffered a hard tackle that left him on the ground with what were later described as head and neck injuries. He was taken off the field on a stretcher and taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where he was reported to be conscious and have movement in all his extremities.

Four days prior, Tagovailoa suffered what was initially described as a head injury and later described as a back injury. Tagoavailoa took a big hit in that game and when he got up, stumbled and appeared disoriented. He was taken to the locker room and the Dolphins tweeted that he had a head injury and was questionable to return.

When the teams resumed play in the third quarter, Tagovailoa was back on the field having been cleared to return. There was considerable confusion given how he staggered off the field and Ian Rapoport was the first to report on what allegedly happened. He described it as an issue of Tagoavailoa’s back locking up on the hit and that led to him wobbling. He reported that Tagovailoa cleared the concussion protocol in the locker room.

Following the game, an NFL spokesperson said that, “Tagovailoa underwent an examination by the Dolphins’ team doctor and an independent sideline neurologist and was cleared for return.”

Within an hour of the end of the Dolphins-Bills game, the NFLPA decided it would initiate an investigation into the handling of Tagovailoa’s concussion check in the game, per Tom Pelissero.

The current collective bargaining agreement affords the NFLPA, the NFL Management Council, or any player the right to bring forward a complaint about an alleged failure to follow concussion protocol. Any complaint will be investigated and resolved by the union and management council.

The CBA provides for a process of investigating the complaints. Investigators have the authority to interview involved parties and anybody “reasonably believed to be in possession of information relevant to the inquiry (including players, league employees, club employees and members of the involved club’s medical staff) and, upon request from any Representative, shall be provided, as quickly as reasonably possible, with a copy of all game film, other recorded evidence and any other documentation relevant to the investigation of the complaint.”

The investigators must complete their investigation and produce a report of their findings within two weeks following the filing of a complaint and the report will remain confidential. If the investigation was initiated on Sunday, September 25, two weeks later would be Sunday, October 9.

The Executive Director of the NFLPA and the NFL Deputy General Counsel, Labor will then meet to discuss the evidence and if they cannot agree whether a violation occurred or what the appropriate discipline should be within three weeks of the filing of the complaint, they’ll turn it over to an impartial arbitrator. The arbitrator will conduct a hearing no later than 30 days later and within a week of the close of evidence, will present a written report to the NFL.

If the arbitrator decides a violation occurred and it is the first such violation in the league year for the Dolphins, punishment is as follows, per the CBA:

  • (a) issuance of a letter of reprimand advising that club employee(s) and/or member(s) of the club’s medical staff knowingly and materially violated the NFL Game Concussion Protocol,
  • (b) requiring the club employees or medical team members involved with the deviation from the Protocol to attend remedial education; and/or
  • (c) a fine against the club in an amount no more than $500,000;
  • and any other discipline that the Commissioner deems warranted by the violation.

The arbitrator could find that aggravating circumstances exist. In that case, the fine is to be no less than $100,000 and “the Commissioner shall consider the Impartial Arbitrator’s findings with regard to relevant aggravating factors in making his determination as to appropriate discipline.”