EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Teddy Bridgewater's first start with the Miami Dolphins began with a big hit on his first snap.
The veteran quarterback's shaky reaction on the field was enough to get him pulled for the day because of newly revised concussion protocols.
Bridgewater, starting in place of the injured Tua Tagovailoa, left the Dolphins' 40-17 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday after he was popped in the chest by cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner on a blitz as he was about to throw.
Bridgewater was called for intentional grounding in the end zone on the play, resulting in a safety on Miami's first offensive play. And then Bridgewater was examined for an elbow injury and also evaluated for a concussion.
Coach Mike McDaniel said after the game Bridgewater doesn’t have any concussion symptoms and passed tests, but a spotter saw Bridgewater stumble after the play. So he was removed — a result of the revised protocols put in place as a result of Tagovailoa's injuries.
“He’ll be now under the new regulations in the concussion protocol moving forward,” McDaniel said.
Bridgewater started after Tagovailoa suffered a concussion in Miami’s previous game Sept. 29 at Cincinnati. Tagovailoa took a hard sack in the first half and displayed the fencing response after the hit. He was stretchered off the field and taken to a hospital. He remains in the concussion protocol.
That came four days after Tagovailoa was hit hard against Buffalo, causing him to slam to the ground. He appeared disoriented afterward and stumbled as he tried to get to his feet.
Tagovailoa was immediately taken to the locker room, went through the NFL’s concussion protocol — and cleared of any head injury. He started the third quarter, drawing widespread criticism as to why he was allowed to return.
On Saturday, the NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to make changes to the league’s concussion protocol following a joint investigation into the procedures after Tagovailoa's back injury. The league and players’ union said in a joint statement that while the Dolphins followed protocol after the injury, the outcome of the Tagovailoa case “was not what was intended when the Protocol was drafted.”
As a result, language addressing abnormality of balance/stability was added to the league’s protocol list of symptoms that would keep a player from returning to the game. That applied to Bridgewater on Sunday.
“Honestly, I’m happy that there’s some policy that the medical experts deem is safe for the players collectively,” McDaniel said. “That’s a positive thing. As far as the determination that things were followed appropriately, that didn’t surprise me. That’s what I’ve been saying.”
Bridgewater was replaced by rookie Skylar Thompson, who was 19 of 33 for 166 yards and an interception in his NFL debut.
“To see Tua go down the way he did and see Teddy go down the way he did, it’s never something you would wish on anybody,” the seventh-rounder from Kansas State said. “You hate to see it. It hurts.”
McDaniel said he thought Bridgewater would be able to fly home with the team.
“You never want to see one of your teammates go down, especially to see Teddy on the first play,” Thompson said. “It was a little bit to take in.”
Thompson led a few efficient scoring drives for the Dolphins in relief of Bridgewater. With Miami trailing 19-7, tight end Durham Smythe took a direct snap and shoved his way across the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown with 4 seconds left in the second quarter.
Jason Sanders’ 46-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half cut the Dolphins’ deficit to two at 19-17.
Miami had a chance to take its first lead, but Sanders was wide right on a 54-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter. And the Jets scored 21 straight points to turn a nail-biter into a blowout.
“It’s rough, but the whole team has confidence in Skylar,” McDaniel said of the effect of losing Bridgewater. "I think our team, in general, doesn’t look at it like there’s a one-man savior at any spot. It’s a new set of circumstances so early.
“I didn’t think the rest of the team’s response to losing Teddy had anything to do with losing the game.”
But now the Dolphins' attention will turn to who starts next Sunday when Miami hosts Minnesota. If neither Tagovailoa nor Bridgewater is cleared, it could be Thompson making his first career start while trying to help end a two-game skid after the Dolphins opened the season 3-0.
“You've got to start somewhere,” Thompson said. “Didn’t play well enough today and obviously that starts with me."
AP Sports Writer Alanis Thames contributed to this report.
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