The Dolphins lost 27-15, but it was the scary moment involving Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa that became the headline from the game. Even Heat players and coaches were shaken from the image of Tagovailoa motionless on the field after being sacked by Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou in the second quarter.
“That was scary. I’ve never seen that before,” said Haslem, who grew up in Miami and is a Dolphins fan. “I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. I thought I was seeing stuff and I had to look again to notice his hands and what he was dealing with. That was very scary. I think his family was at the game, so I can imagine what everybody is going through.”
Tagovailoa was diagnosed with a concussion and missed the rest of the game. He wore a neck brace after the game and will undergo an MRI in the coming days.
What made the noise surrounding Tagovailoa’s concussion even louder than usual, though, was the fact that fans, players and doctors immediately took to social media to question the decision to allow Tagovailoa play on Thursday after he seemed to be shaken after the back of his head was slammed to the turf following a hard hit in Sunday’s win over the Buffalo Bills.
“That’s the world we live in right now,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said following Friday’s practice. “Everybody is looking to blame immediately when something happens. We don’t have all the information. I don’t think that’s fair to jump to all these different conclusions. Teams and medical staffs are very responsible. Not every situation is the exact same thing. So there are protocols in both of our leagues that you have to adhere to. It’s really about being able to compete at the highest level, but also be safe about it.”
An independent neurologist and the Dolphins medical staff determined that Tagovailoa didn’t have a concussion or display concussion symptoms from Sunday’s hard fall against the Bills. Tagovailoa and the team said he had a back injury, not a head injury.
“It’s very important,” Haslem said when asked how important it is for players to sometimes be protected from themselves by their own teams. “It’s a collaboration between the league and the teams. Everybody has to work together. I think the league puts these rules out there to protect the players, but it’s within the trust of the organizations that they follow the guidelines and the rules just to make sure everybody is safe. It has to be a collaboration between both of them. Players’ safety is most important and key. Without healthy players, you can’t have a league.”
The Heat went through its own tricky injury issue last season, when forward Markieff Morris was forced to miss four months of games because of a neck injury sustained when Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic shoved him to the court. Morris pushed to come back sooner, but he needed to receive clearance from the NBA’s Fitness-To-Play panel to return.
“Each situation is different. So you can’t really compare the situations,” Spoelstra said. “You try to follow the protocols and do what’s best for the athlete and you really have to get to a place where you’re not influenced by all the noise and all the opinions outside. It definitely has increased over the years now. Everybody is looking to blame somebody. Injuries are unfortunate and you have to treat them on a case by case basis.”
With so much of last season’s roster back, Heat veteran point guard Kyle Lowry has spent the first few training camp practices trying to learn where players improved so he can make sure to leverage that growth.
“I think we just got guys that are individually trying to get better,” Lowry said following Friday’s practice. “I think that’s where you see something different. I don’t think as a point guard, you try to maximize. I think through their individual skill, talent and summer work, they got better. As a point guard, you figure out what they got better at.”
Has Lowry already noticed anything different about how the Heat will do things this season?
“I don’t know yet,” Lowry said. “We’re four days into camp, so it’s still training camp. I think guys are just getting our legs under us. We’re kind of putting in some offense and putting in our defensive schemes. Right now, I think we’re just focused on us and getting our offense and our defense on the same page.”
The Heat closes training camp in the Bahamas on Saturday before returning to Miami for the Red, White and Pink Game on Monday and its preseason opener on Tuesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves at FTX Arena.
With the Heat soon opening its five-game preseason schedule, expect to see a lot of different lineup combinations as Spoelstra and his staff work to find what works best.
“We do that every training camp, preseason anyway,” Spoelstra said. “Our versatility is a really important part of our makeup and you have to be able to take a look at different combinations just to see what they look like against competition. I just like the fact that we have these different kind of lineups that we can go to. The big lineup, the speed lineup, the shooting lineup. So you’ll see a decent amount of those.”
▪ Each of the 20 players on the Heat’s preseason roster took part in Friday’s practice.