Rob Ninkovich Delivers Powerful Message On Ugly Tua Tagovailoa Injury

The ex-Patriots linebacker had an emotional reaction to Tua's injury


September 30

There was some question this week whether Tua Tagovailoa would — or should — play Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, as it sure looked like the Miami Dolphins quarterback suffered a head injury Sunday against the Buffalo Bills despite claiming otherwise.

Tagovailoa ultimately started in Week 4, much to the chagrin of at least one concussion expert, and the worst-case scenario unfolded at Paycor Stadium: The QB again smacked his head off the ground, leaving him unconscious with his fingers frozen.

The scene in Cincinnati was downright terrifying, as Tagovailoa was stretchered off the field and taken to a local hospital. And even though he later was discharged, allowing him to fly home with his teammates, it’s fair to question whether the Dolphins or the NFL should have done more to protect Tagovailoa from a potentially disastrous injury.

“When you get knocked out, you don’t know what happened,” Rob Ninkovich, a former NFL linebacker who most notably played eight seasons with the New England Patriots (2009-16), said Friday on ESPN’s “Get Up.” “I’ve been knocked out. You get up (and) you’re like, ‘Whoa, what happened? I’m OK. I’m OK. I can go. I can play.’ It’s up to someone else — a medical expert or someone that witnesses that — to say, ‘No, no, no, no, you just got knocked out. You don’t know what happened. You might say it’s your back, but we know, we saw it.’

“So, the NFL has to do a better job of knowing what to do if they see someone get injured the way that he got injured (Sunday). It wasn’t his back. You don’t sit up, shake your head to get the cobwebs out, stand up, do it again, start to run and stumble on yourself if you have a back injury. It was a head issue on Sunday, they say it’s a back issue, he plays Thursday night four days later and gets a massive concussion where he froze up. That’s a problem. And it’s a bad look.”

Ninkovich obviously isn’t alone in those sentiments, as social media was buzzing Thursday night with fans, analysts, players, medical experts, etc., all weighing in on the gut-wrenching situation. But it was clear Friday morning that Ninkovich was emotionally impacted by Tagovailoa’s injury.

Ninkovich has seen firsthand the effects of head trauma, and his message regarding the issue was extremely powerful.

“I have children, I have kids. After you watch that, you don’t want your kid to play football,” Ninkovich said. “And you see all of these commercials on ‘safety of the game, the future of the game, technology is shaping the future of the game with helmets,’ but how do you protect the player on the field to where he doesn’t have to fight through an injury to say, ‘Hey, you know what? I’m fine. I can go out here, I can play, I’m good.’ It’s the doctors, it’s your coaches, it’s the NFL — they need to say, ‘No, no, no, we need to have a better protocol in place to make sure that players don’t put themselves in harm’s way.’ Because the 44-year-old Tua is going to look back on the 24-year-old Tua and say, ‘Why did I do this? Now I have a family. Now I have people that rely on me to be around.’

“And I’ve seen too many guys that are going through a lot of stuff, and it’s unfortunate. Junior Seau was my locker mate next to me, and I had to see things that you don’t want to see that happen to people. I don’t want families to go through it. And you don’t know, there’s an unknown here to the future — how long you play football, with contact? What’s in store for me? What’s in store for everyone that played? It’s an unknown. But it’s your families that are going to be by your side down the road. You know, the head coach can go up and tap you on the shoulder and hold your hand while you’re going off the field. He’s not going to be there 20 or 30 years down the road, when you’re dealing with the problem. It’s going to be your wife and your kids.”

Football is a dangerous game, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s even more dangerous when you take unnecessary risks.

Given what we saw Sunday, when Tagovailoa stumbled to the ground before returning to the Dolphins’ game against the Bills, it’s hard not to wonder whether him playing Thursday night falls under that category.

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Thumbnail photo via Sam Greene/The Cincinnati Enquirer via USA TODAY Sports Images
NFL: Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals
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