CBS’ Trent Green, working another Dolphins game, talks Tua, his own concussions, more

Miami Herald file

CBS analyst Trent Green — who worked the Dolphins’ wins against Baltimore and Buffalo and calls Sunday’s game at the Jets with Kevin Harlan — can relate to what Tua Tagovailoa is experiencing, having sustained multiple concussions in 113 starts as an NFL quarterback.

He was worried when Tagovailoa’s head banged off the turf in Cincinnati, but he wasn’t rushing to place blame.

During a Zoom conversation on Thursday, Green offered a measured assessment of the situation, devoid of the accusatory anger splattered across social media.

The former Dolphins, Kansas City, Washington and St. Louis quarterback sustained at least two concussions — he believes it was likely more than that — as a player, including one that left him snoring on the field.

Among the topics covered:

Green is not part of the angry mob ripping doctors or the team for the decision to re-insert Tagovailoa into the Bills game.

“When you see him stumble, you immediately think concussion because we’ve all been trained to [think] that,” he said.

But Green isn’t convinced it was a concussion. Many former players (and others) have insisted that it was, but the two examining physicians said he had a back — not a head — injury.

“It was good he was able to get up on his own. He looked fine going into the locker room. And then the report that [CBS sideline reporter] Melanie Collins was given was he was being evaluated for back and ankle injuries. We assumed it was a back thing that caused it to happen.

“When I first saw it, I was surprised he came back in the second half, because I was thinking head injury. But when the report came back that it was his back, I don’t even think we brought it up in the second half.”

Unlike some, Green said he doesn’t “know that [that process] did go wrong [against Buffalo]. If they sent down the video of him stumbling, and they say, ‘Yeah, we understand he was stumbling, but he’s stumbling because he’s having back spasms.’ If that’s accurate, I don’t know where the [problem] lies. A lot of it needs to be the player” being honest about what’s wrong.

(According to Amazon, the NFL and the union haven’t been able to agree about whether the league’s concussion policy was violated during the Dolphins-Bills game.)

Green said “seeing what happened on Thursday night [to Tua] is scary,” but that injury didn’t make him more inclined to question Tagovailoa going back into the Bills game.

The only national analyst who has strongly criticized Mike McDaniel is former Jets coach Rex Ryan, who said allowing Tagovailoa to return to the Bills game is “an epic fail; it’s a fail on the coach, too. As a coach, you’re the last line of defense. I’m not letting that guy back out there. This is clearly from head trauma.”

Green doesn’t agree with that: “Don’t put it on Mike at all. We don’t even know if Mike saw him stumble. Mike is the play-caller; he’s probably looking at their play sheet. The doctors, their job is to do the evaluation. The trainers, the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant. That’s their job.

“If Mike goes in there and says, ‘Wait a second, I saw him stumble,’ even if he did see him stumble, and [doctors] say it’s because of the back spasms, well OK. You don’t put that on Mike McDaniel.”

And Jimmy Johnson mentioned on Fox that the coach is never involved in the decision about whether to medically clear a player to return.

Green has questions about the expected change to concussion protocol, the one that reportedly will rule out a player from returning to the game if he exhibits gross motor instability. (That proposal has not yet been implemented.)

“We have to draw a fine line here [with] gross motor instability. If a player is having a back spasm and goes to the ground, maybe at halftime, they are able to relax those muscles, do stretching.

“That general term, there would have to be some clarity with the guidelines. If they did an evaluation — and from every indication they did — and it was more than one person that did, and they determined it wasn’t head trauma” how do you keep the player sidelined?

How many concussions did Green have?

“Based on the way they label concussions now, I have no doubt I had more [than two]. I retired with two concussions, but I was knocked out twice. I played on turf that’s as hard as the table I have my IPad set on.

“I got knocked out on two occasions — one with Kansas City, one with the Dolphins. I feel for Tua. I was immediately thinking more about his family. I understand his parents were in attendance so they were able to be with him. That was the scariest part for me, because [with his Dolphins concussion in 2007], my family [did not instantly know] what was going on.

“I give all the credit to the Dolphins and their medical staff and trainers at that time. They called [my wife] immediately and gave her updates because we were on the road in Houston and she was back in Miami.. I’ve had nothing but great things to say about how the Dolphins handled the situation. They protected me. I was stubborn like all athletes; you want to play.

“The next day, I went in for a workout and went on the practice field and ran and I grabbed a couple of guys to go throw and the trainers come running out on the field and say, ‘What are you doing?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m good to go. I’m just letting you guys know I’m ready to roll.’

“And they’re like, ‘No, you can’t be doing all that.’

“I said, ‘I already got my weight work in, I got my conditioning done, and now I’m going to be throwing.’ And they’re like, ‘No, we’ve got to do an evaluation.’ I credit the organization for how they handled me.”

“When I was knocked out in Miami [in 2007], I was only knocked out for a few seconds. I remember going off the field on that one.

“The concussion I had in Kansas City in 2006, I was out for several minutes, knocked out right on the sideline of the Chiefs, and my teammates told me I was snoring [on the field]. Based on what I know, does it concern me? Yes, it concerns me, because there’s about a 20 to 30 minute window that I don’t remember.

“I don’t remember anything until I was going to the hospital. My wife was in the ambulance with me because they had me strapped down to the board and had my facemask off. I was still wearing a helmet, without a facemask, and all of a sudden, the first thing I remember is here I am with all these bright lights on me and I can’t move. That was scary.

“I do remember that vividly. I flipped out on her. I was like, ‘What the heck is going on?’ Why can’t I move? Why am I strapped down? I’ve been told I’ll never get that 30 minutes back.”

Green said his main symptom after the K.C./snoring concussion “was my equilibrium, like people who have a hard time on roller coasters. I wasn’t allowed to drive for several weeks [after K.C. concussion] because if I had to turn my head too fast, maybe that would throw off my balance.”

Green consulted neurologists, neurosurgeons and neuro psychologists after his concussions and got “third, fourth, fifth opinions.”

One thing he learned “is every single brain injury is different. I got knocked unconscious [for the Dolphins] and... I didn’t feel bad at all.

“I directly know people that you would look what appears to be not that big a deal and they have concussion symptoms for months, because of mitigating factors of where they were hit and how they were hit, medications they were on, hydration, elevation. You cannot treat brain injuries the same; there are no two that are the same even within the same person.

“I was knocked out in back-to-back years, 2006 and 2007, and the symptoms were completely different. The way I was affected, my mood, my overall well being was completely different and those were two very similar kind of hits.”

That’s why Green said it would be impossible for anyone who isn’t examining Tagovailoa to offer any educated opinion on how many games he should miss.

CBS’ Phil Simms said on the network’s pregame show last Sunday that doctors have told him that Tagovailoa shouldn’t play for four to six weeks. The Dolphins have said there is no timetable.

Does Green experience any issues that he would attribute to concussions?

“Up to this point, no,” he said. “I am in my 50s, so I have my 50s moments where I walk into a room and I’m thinking, ‘OK, what the heck did I come in here for?’ Speaking to my other friends who did not get beaten up as a career that are in their 50s, they think very similar things. I don’t think I’m any more forgettable than some of them.

“I still work out regularly, four or five days a week. I try to eat as healthy as possible. I try to cognitively stay engaged with friends, family members. There are a lot of things I’m trying to do to combat that because of all the doctors I’ve met with and the research I’ve done. I’ve tried to convey this to former teammates and former players: Don’t just sit around and read the Internet all day and watch TV. Be active. All those things have helped me.”

Because Tagovailoa is smaller and shorter than many NFL quarterbacks, does that leave him more vulnerable to head injuries?

Green doesn’t believe so.

“There have been players over the years, different sizes. I think Tua is a pretty stout guy. He’s thick and put together. To me, he doesn’t look frail at all. He’s got the stature and body type and works at it. I don’t worry about him long-term” with head injuries.

But durability has been an issue for Tagovailoa, and Green said with “anybody, you have to look at the injury history; I would be more concerned with that [for him].”

When Green watches Tagovailoa this season, “I see him play looser. He definitely benefited from the addition of Tyreek Hill and Mike McDaniel.

“You see a different person, different quarterback. To me it looks like a more confident [guy], not that he lacked confidence — that he’s willing to make those throws and fire them in there. I don’t know if he was afraid of mistakes before.”

Here’s my Friday injury update on Xavien Howard, Tyreek Hill and Tua Tagovailoa and other Dolphins news.