The N.F.L. typically does everything in its power to protect quarterbacks, the undisputed stars of the game.
But on Sunday, some of the league’s best quarterbacks, including Tom Brady and Justin Herbert, were banged up and in some cases left in the game despite the risk of aggravating their injuries.
One apparent injury even prompted the N.F.L. Players Association to launch an inquiry. That occurred in Miami, where Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looked to have sustained a head injury when he hit the back of his helmet on the turf in the second quarter. Tagovailoa immediately grabbed the sides of his helmet, staggered to his feet and after taking a few steps, fell to his knees. He walked off the field and spent the rest of the first half in the locker room, but returned to play in the second half.
The NFL Network reported that Tagovailoa hurt his back, prompting Chris Nowinski of the Concussion Legacy Foundation to push back. “Tua shakes his head multiple times to ‘clear the cobwebs,’ which is a specific sign of vision impairment after concussion,” Nowinski wrote on Twitter. “His return is a fail @nfl.”
The union will interview everyone involved in Tagovailoa’s evaluation, an option added to the collective bargaining agreement in 2020.
Herbert, who had injured ribs heading into the Los Angeles Chargers’ game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, did not look as sharp as usual. With his team trailing by 28 points with five minutes left in the game, the Chargers left Herbert in the game.
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones left the game after he injured his left leg or ankle when Calais Campbell of the Baltimore Ravens landed on him. The play came late in the fourth quarter. Jones was helped into the locker room by trainers. After the game, Coach Bill Belichick said he had no update on Jones’s condition, and Jones did not speak with the news media.
In Charlotte, New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston reportedly played with several injured vertebrae. He threw for 353 yards and one touchdown but also was intercepted twice as the Saints lost, 22-14.
Brady also played injured, having hurt his right ring finger last week. The injury was bad enough that Brady was listed on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers injury report on Friday before they faced Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Brady did not appear to compensate when throwing the ball on Sunday. He was 31 of 42 for 271 yards and one touchdown, which came late in the fourth quarter to cut the Packers’ lead to 2 points.
Perhaps Brady’s most exciting play came when he scrambled through midfield for a large gain. But the run was called back because of a penalty. After Brady slid to the ground, he had to readjust the brace he was wearing on his left knee.
And an apparently healthy Rodgers got the better of Brady and the Buccaneers as the Packers left Tampa with a 14-12 victory.