TAMPA, Fla. — For the first four minutes or so of his post-practice news conference here Wednesday, Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was downright open and accessible.
A relaxed Tua volunteered that he dropped more than a grand for a big team dinner at a nearby steakhouse that was organized during the Dolphins’ extended stay during this week’s joint training camp practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It was refreshing to see Tua let down his guard, even if the moment was fleeting. With one question about a particularly sensitive — and timely — subject, the guard came right back up.
Tua Tagovailoa again deals with Tom Brady fallout
A Tampa-based reporter doggedly questioned Tagovailoa about the NFL investigation that the Dolphins twice tried improperly to acquire quarterback Tom Brady — first when he was with the Patriots in 2019 and 2020, and then again when he was a member of the Bucs in 2021.
So there was Tua, yet again, having to answer for events beyond his control based on decisions made without his knowledge. Fair? No. But also the reality for someone in his position, particularly since he and Brady — still a member of the Bucs after a short retirement — shared a practice field Wednesday.
“They picked me,” Tagovailoa responded to the Brady query. “It’s 2022. I’m still here. … To me, that’s all noise at this point.”
That noise is surely a nuisance. But for Tagovailoa, it’s nothing new. Since he entered the league in 2020, there have been questions — about his health, his arm strength, and players the Dolphins not-so-secretly have tried to acquire to replace him.
Much of his 2021 season was hijacked by the Dolphins’ ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of Deshaun Watson. Much of his 2022 training camp has been about the Dolphins’ ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of Brady.
Brady wisely ducked the Miami and national media this week (he didn’t speak Wednesday and is not expected to speak Thursday). But new Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel — who had absolutely nothing to do with his team owner Stephen Ross’ courtship of Watson or Brady — was not so lucky Wednesday.
It made things, on the surface, seem awkward — even if McDaniel wisely insisted otherwise.
“For me, nothing happened,” McDaniel said prior to practice. “Everyone else is making it awkward. It doesn’t occupy a single iota of space with anybody. It’s hard enough to be good in this league. We’re, as the Miami Dolphins, all of our energy is very coordinated and only has to do with us getting better. Everything else would be an opportunity cost that we’re not willing to expend.”
While Brady made the strategic decision to avoid the media Wednesday, he wasn’t a mute. Far from. In fact, he found time to chat up the player he was in talks to replace — Tua.
“I was able to talk to Tom,” Tagovailoa said. “We were talking on the side for a good bit. He was asking how the offseason was. We were talking a little about golf at the same time. For the most part, 23 years playing, that’s a long time. That’s a lot of knowledge. I was asking him some things. He gave me some good insight. I’m going to keep that between me and Tom.”
As for what impresses him most by the seven-time Super Bowl champion, Tua replied:
“I would say Tom’s composure in the pocket. Nothing really rattles him. You’ve got a guy in your face. Subtle movements and throwing the ball. Those are top traits, qualities in a really good quarterback. With him, [Russell Wilson], Aaron Rodgers, all of those big-time guys.”