At least one fall guy has been found in the aftermath of Tua Tagovailoa’s brain injury during Thursday’s game. On Saturday, the NFL Players Association decided to fire the “unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant” who cleared the Dolphins quarterback during Sunday’s game against the Bills. Both the union and the league reserve the right to fire any of those consultants without permission from the other party.
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the consultant did not help his own case while talking to the NFLPA:
Also last night, the NFL and NFLPA released a joint statement in which they stressed that they haven’t figured out whether there were any errors or violations—aside from the concussion consultant who was fired, I guess—but there will be changes to the concussion protocol, effective immediately. An injury like that will undo all the PR provided by those Guardian Caps.
Pelissero characterized this as a message to the rest of the league: “If there’s any doubt, get the player out.” All of the reporting and statements here can make you feel a little crazy, because it’s presenting something existent as totally new. Was the league not operating under these guidelines? Weren’t doctors and trainers already taking away players’ helmets so they didn’t re-enter a game? But because the process failed a good quarterback on a good team, the NFL is trying for a hard reset: OK, this time we’ll really take concussions seriously. Does that include acknowledging this wasn’t a back injury after all?
Seriously, how stupid do they think we are? After Thursday’s game, the Dolphins were so quick to inform the public that Tagovailoa was conscious and had feeling in his extremities and was laughing all throughout MacGruber on the flight home—one embellishment too many, if you ask me, and I have positive feelings toward MacGruber—but it wasn’t only to put everyone at ease. It was ass-covering. Tagovailoa must have been reminded that he’s in the third year of a rookie contract, and some combination of his team’s staff and an independent doctor could have permanently ruined his life. The best explanation for why a corporation might agree to enact significant changes so abruptly, without even waiting to see the conclusions of an ongoing investigation into the failure of the process, is to preempt possible litigation.