TAMPA, Fla. >> This could’ve been awkward for Tua Tagovailoa. He’s at a Miami Dolphins joint practice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where, on the other side, is a quarterback the organization wanted bad enough to violate NFL rules in pursuit.
But Tagovailoa, a Saint Louis alum, didn’t view it as such when his team had its first of two joint sessions with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers at their practice field in Tampa today.
Instead, the Dolphins signal-caller saw an opportunity to pick the brain of the future Hall of Famer who has seven Super Bowl rings and many deem the greatest of all time.
“Twenty-three years playing. That’s a long time,” said Tagovailoa, entering his third NFL season. “That’s a lot of knowledge, so I was asking him some things, and he gave me some good insight on it.”
What kind of things?
“I’m going to keep that between me and Tom.”
It was good that Tagovailoa heard whatever he picked up from Brady directly from the man himself, because coach Mike McDaniel didn’t want his quarterback watching the other field where Brady was facing the Dolphins defense.
“I would actually be very disappointed if he did,” McDaniel said. “He’d probably be taking a sack if he was watching because there’ll be simultaneous plays. … Contrary to popular belief, Tua doesn’t play one snap against Tom Brady.
“It’s more about going against a different defense that, not just schematically, but how they play football with different techniques that they emphasize. Those things are a big part of the NFL game. You’re adjusting every week, so those subtle difference are huge differences.”
But Tagovailoa already knows enough about Brady’s game to be aware of what impresses him, with his composure in the pocket topping the list.
“Nothing really rattles him,” Tagovailoa said. “When you got a guy in your face, subtle movements and throwing the ball. I would say those are top-trait qualities in a really great quarterback with him, [Russell Wilson], Aaron Rodgers, all those big-time guys.”
While the Dolphins defense today was able to rattle Brady in spurts, Tagovailoa had a mostly efficient day against a vaunted Buccaneers defense. He had multiple connections to new star receiver Tyreek Hill for sizable gains, found Jaylen Waddle, Cedrick Wilson Jr. and rookie Erik Ezukanma each at least once and didn’t make any major mistakes.
If any, he held on to the ball too long for a coverage sack. Once, he stumbled rolling to his right, and it caused him to throw behind Hill, allowing Tampa safety Antoine Winfield to break up the pass. Tagovailoa also came up empty in situational drives, although one apparent touchdown pass to River Cracraft was brought back.
His efforts came against different looks than he had faced through two weeks of training camp in Miami.
“We get a lot of press-man. Tampa has a lot of off-man, off-zone, and they have a fair amount of disguises with what they do,” Tagovailoa said.
It didn’t bother Tagovailoa that findings of an independent investigation into the Dolphins tampering with Brady revealed on Aug. 2 that Miami had illegal communication with the all-time passer both in 2019, when Brady was a member of the New England Patriots and Tagovailoa was still in college at Alabama, and 2021, with Brady on the Buccaneers and Tagovailoa in his second season with the Dolphins.
“They picked me,” Tagovailoa simply put it. “It’s 2022. I’m still here. To me, that’s all noise at this point.”
McDaniel, too, downplayed the impact the tampering penalty, which docked the Dolphins of a 2023 first-round pick and 2024 third-round selection while fining owner Steve Ross $1.5 million.
“What happened?” he replied wittily to a question about it. “For me, nothing happened. Everyone else is the one making it awkward. Doesn’t occupy a single iota of space with anybody we have. It’s hard enough to be good in this league. As the Miami Dolphins, all of our energy is very coordinated and only has to do with us getting better.”
Before today’s practice, the Dolphins had an off day in Tampa and some of the players celebrated the birthdays of tight end Durham Smythe and linebacker Duke Riley between a stroll through a local mall and dinner at Ocean Prime. Tagovailoa said he picked up a tab of more than $1,000.
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