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Matt Moore concussion inquiry reveals Dolphins did not follow protocol

The league ruled Matt Moore was improperly inserted back into the Dolphins’ Wild Card game.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL and NFLPA’s joint investigation has revealed the Miami Dolphins failed to properly follow the league’s concussion protocols after quarterback Matt Moore absorbed a brutal hit in the team’s Wild Card loss to the Steelers. Though the franchise won’t yet be fined, it could face penalties and sanctions pending further investigation.

The NFL announced the finding of the joint investigation Wednesday. While Miami properly handled Moore’s injury after pulling him from the field, staffers missed an additional symptom that would have precluded him from returning to the huddle so quickly.

“In the second quarter, Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore incurred a hit to the chin and mouth area which drew a roughing the passer penalty,” the league wrote. “Mr. Moore was attended to by medical staff on the field and on the sideline ... They jointly cleared Mr. Moore to return to the game, but did not recognize that Mr. Moore presented a documented symptom, bleeding from the mouth, that required further evaluation in the locker room under the protocol. There is no indication that competitive issues had an impact on the care that Mr. Moore received, nor did Mr. Moore demonstrate any concussion symptoms either during or at any time following the game.”

The violation came after Moore suffered a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit at the hands of Pittsburgh linebacker Bud Dupree. Moore left the game briefly, but returned to the huddle minutes later. After the game, he told reporters he didn’t think he had sustained a head injury during the game.

The NFLPA announced Monday after the game it would review Miami’s sideline actions after re-inserting Moore into the game. The NFL followed suit.

Under new NFL rules, the franchise could have been fined up to $150,000 for the violation. Fudging the concussion protocol a second time will carry a penalty of at least $100,000. If Commissioner Roger Goodell determines a team’s medical staff kept a concussed player in the game for competitive reasons, the team could be forced to forfeit draft picks.

This was the second investigation into the league’s post-concussion protocols since the new rules were passed in the summer of 2016. The league and NFLPA ruled the Panthers didn’t violated safety rules by allowing Cam Newton to return to the season opener against the Broncos, but also changed their policy towards keeping concussion spotters on the sideline.

The Dolphins aren’t clear yet, but it appears the NFL and NFLPA recognize Moore’s return was not a blatant violation of the player-protecting protocol. While the veteran backup should have been taken to the locker room for further evaluation, he failed to display further concussion symptoms during or after the game.