Harbaugh questions handling of Tua's injuries: 'I couldn't believe what I saw'
"I couldn't believe what I saw last night," Harbaugh said. "I couldn't believe what I saw last Sunday. It was just something that was astonishing to see. I've been coaching for 40 years now, college in the NFL ... and I've never seen anything like it before. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I really appreciate our doctors. I appreciate our owner (Steve Bisciotti)."
Tagovailoa was stretched off the field during Thursday's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals after a scary hit in the second quarter. He was taken to the hospital and placed in concussion protocol before flying back to Miami with the team.
The incident came just four days after concerns that Tagovailoa suffered a head injury in a win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 3. The 24-year-old appeared to hit his head on the turf following a hit in the second quarter and stumbled when he got back to his feet.
However, Tagovailoa was cleared after a concussion check and returned following halftime to lead Miami to victory. Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said Tagovailoa was dealing with a back injury that caused him to stumble.
Harbaugh faced a similar situation in 2020 when Lamar Jackson was diagnosed with a concussion after hitting his head on the ground during a playoff game against the Buffalo Bills. The Ravens trailed 17-3 at the time of Jackson's injury and went on to lose the game.
Many players criticized the Dolphins and NFL after Tagovailoa was allowed back into Sunday's contest. The criticism only got louder after his injury Thursday.
The NFL Players Association initiated an investigation into the handling of Tagovailoa's concussion check during the Bills game. The league said Wednesday that there's no indication the Dolphins violated protocol.
NFLPA president JC Tretter said Friday that the system and policies failed Tagovailoa. He also called for changes to the concussion protocol.
"We are all outraged by what we have seen the last several days and scared for the safety of one of our brothers," said Tretter. "What everyone saw both Sunday and last night were 'no-go' symptoms within our concussion protocols. The protocols exist to protect the player, and that is why we initiated an investigation.
"Our job as the NFLPA is to take every possible measure to get the facts and hold those responsible accountable. We need to figure out how and why the decisions were made last Sunday to allow a player with a 'no-go' symptom back on the field."
McDaniel defended the decision to start Tagovailoa against the Bengals.
"I have 100% conviction in our process regarding our players," said McDaniel on Friday, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. "This is a player-friendly organization. ... There was no medical indication from all resources there was anything regarding the head."
The head coach said he "wouldn't have been able to live" with himself if he put the quarterback on the field prematurely following a head injury.
Tagovailoa was in "good spirits" after returning to his home in South Florida on Friday, a source told ESPN's Marcel Louis-Jacques. The signal-caller will reportedly undergo an MRI after initial tests showed no structural damage.