Bill Belichick Weighs In On Tua Tagovailoa Concussion Controversy

'That's not really my field of expertise'


October 3

The NFL’s handling of concussions reentered the public discourse last week. On Monday, Bill Belichick shared his thoughts on the matter.

During an appearance on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show,” the New England Patriots head coach was asked whether the league’s concussion protocols should be amended following multiple incidents involving Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Belichick sidestepped that question, deferring to medical professionals.

“That’s not really my field of expertise,” he said. “Those are medical decisions. There are league people at the game that are involved in that, so I think that’s something you should really talk to them about. I don’t personally have anything to do with that, and I’m not qualified to talk about different injuries and different classifications and what should or shouldn’t happen. That would be for the professional medical people.”

Belichick did, however, say he’s removed players from games who showed visible impairment after hits to the head, even if those players were medically cleared.

“I’ve definitely done that before,” Belichick said. “Oh, yeah. If I see a player that I think is not functioning properly, and for some reason it hasn’t been identified, then absolutely, I have done that. I would say not recently; those are things that have happened at other points in my career. But yeah, absolutely.

“If a player doesn’t look like he’s functioning properly, we evaluate him with the medical people, but we also, as a secondary check, even if the medical people were to clear a player, we still go through a coaching clearance to make sure that he’s ready to play football, not just medically cleared. We always have a secondary evaluation on that.”

Visible signs of impairment — or “gross motor instability” — were the root of the controversy surrounding the Tagovailoa situation. The Miami QB had trouble walking after his head bounced off the turf during a win over the Buffalo Bills last Sunday. He was evaluated for a concussion but later returned to the game. Tagovailoa played the following Thursday, as well, and left that game on a cart after taking another hit to the head.

The unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who evaluated Tagovailoa during the Buffalo game was fired Saturday, and Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel has faced criticism for continuing to play Tagovailoa. The NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement they “anticipate changes to the (concussion) protocol.”

Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer exited Sunday’s game after being evaluated for a head injury. With usual starter Mac Jones inactive with an ankle injury, New England was forced to insert third-string rookie Bailey Zappe, who nearly pulled off a stunning upset before losing to the Green Bay Packers 27-24 in overtime at Lambeau Field.

Hoyer traveled back to New England with the team, Belichick confirmed, but the timetable for his return is unclear.

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