Tony Dungy took issue with Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate coming back into Sunday night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs after he initially suffered an injury.
Brate sat out the second half of the Buccaneers’ 41-31 loss to the Chiefs with a concussion after he collided with teammate Chris Godwin while being tackled.
During the play, Brate stood up and headed for the sideline but didn’t get off the field fast enough for Tampa Bay to avoid a penalty for having too many players on the field when quarterback Tom Brady took the snap for the next play with 1:15 left in the first half.
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Brate came back into the game and was the intended target on two Brady incompletions on the 12-play drive.
With the NFL world’s senses heightened since the injury to Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Dungy rebuked the league’s concussion protocol in a series of tweets on Monday.
“Broken system. I was on the sideline very close to Brate-obvious he had his bell rung. There’s a league appointed spotter in the press box who should stop play & alert the referee. Brate shouldn’t have been allowed to return until after an evaluation. Why didn’t that happen???” Dungy wrote.
“Coaches, team doctors and game officials are all watching play and can all step in. But the league appointed spotter has the ability to buzz the referee, stop the game and mandate that player leave the game to be evaluated—no penalty or timeout charged to the team.”
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Tampa Bay coach Todd Bowles said after the game that Brate was in the concussion protocol. He was not able to explain why he was allowed to re-enter the game in the final minute of the first half.
“I didn’t exactly see what happened when he came back in the game,” Bowles said. “I have to look at the film.”
Tagovailoa was taken out of Thursday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals with a head injury. He was tackled and slammed to the ground by a Bengals defensive lineman. The injury, coupled with him taking a hard shot against the Buffalo Bills just four days before, heightened the concern around Tagovailoa. He would travel with the team back home after being discharged from the hospital.
Since then, the NFL Players Association reportedly fired the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who evaluated Tagovailoa on Sunday against the Bills. The NFL and the NFLPA launched a joint review into the decision by the doctor to clear Tagovailoa and allow him back into the game.
There are three unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants at each game who are jointly paid by the league and the union to work with team physicians to diagnose concussions.
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The NFL and the NFLPA said they have made no conclusions about “medical errors or protocol violations” while the investigation is still ongoing. But the two added that “modifications are needed… to enhance player safety.” They said they expected “changes to the (concussion) protocol” to happen “in the coming days based on what has been learned thus far in the review process.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.