Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa fires back at ESPN analyst Ryan Clark

Associated Press Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa during a news conference following an NFL preseason football game against the Houston Texans on Saturday.

MIAMI — Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa gave a sharp response on Wednesday to ESPN analyst and former NFL player Ryan Clark’s criticism of his body during an appearance on NFL Live.

On Monday, Clark said of the fourth-year player: “Let me tell you what he wasn’t doing; he wasn’t in the gym, I’ll bet you that. He might spend a lot of time in the tattoo parlor. He was not at the dinner table eating what the nutritionist had advised. He looks ‘happy.’ He is thick. He’s built like the girls working at Onyx.”


Asked about Clark’s comments, Tagovailoa said: “I mean, he probably knows more about me than I know about myself. I don’t know. Ryan’s been out the league for some time. I don’t know. It’s a little weird when other people are talking about other people and they’re not that person. It’s just a little weird.”

He added: “I come from a Samoan family, like, respect is everything. But, it does get to point, ‘Hey, little easy on that buddy.’ I think we’re pretty tough-minded people and if we need to get scrappy, we can get scrappy, too. Just saying.”

Clark, a 2011 Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers, played in the NFL for 13 years with four teams. On Tuesday night, he wrote on social media that his comments were meant to be taken as a joke.

A large focus of Tagovailoa’s offseason was adding weight to his frame to withstand hits in a game and play the entirety of the 2023 season, which Tagovailoa has yet to do since entering the league in 2020. He added about 15 pounds and reported to training camp with a bulkier upper body.

“I’m not someone to talk about myself the entire time, but it takes a lot,” Tagovailoa said. “You think I wanted to build all this muscle? To some extent, I wanted to be a little lighter. There’s a mixture of things that people don’t understand, that people don’t know about that are talked about that go behind the scenes. So, you know, I’d appreciate it if you kept my name out your mouth. That’s what I would say.”

Tagovailoa has been a polarizing figure since he was a blue-chip recruit from Hawaii and then thrust into stardom as a freshman at the University of Alabama. It has only intensified since he entered the league as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 Draft. He faced criticism after struggles in his first two seasons and then missed five games in 2022 amid a breakout season. Much of the discourse surrounding Tagovailoa in the offseason has been whether he can stay healthy to lead a Dolphins team with Super Bowl aspirations.

“When I first got here, I was like, ‘Why does everyone talk about you?’” outside linebacker Bradley Chubb said. “His response was, ‘I don’t know.’”

Asked if he thinks people target him for criticism more because he’s a notable figure and it’s a way to get attention, Tagovailoa said: “I mean, go find [social media personality] Jake Paul or go find Logan [Paul]. Go find those guys if you want to chase clout. Those are the guys you want to chase.”

Tagovailoa, as he has often stated throughout his career, said he doesn’t watch much TV, so things that are said about him are typically relayed to him by the Dolphins’ communication staff.

On the field, Tagovailoa made his preseason debut against the Houston Texans last Saturday, his first NFL game in almost nine months. In two drives, he completed 5 of 7 passes for 61 yards and an interception on his first pass attempt. But he also led a 14-play, 93-yard touchdown drive on his final possession, completing three passes for third-down conversions in the 28-3 Miami win.

Another focus of Tagovailoa’s offseason — weekly jiu-jitsu training to work on the way he falls — was also highlighted in his return to the field. He took a hit from defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins and avoided hitting his head on the ground in a manner that caused two of his diagnosed concussions last season.

Tagovailoa said incorporating his training in a game isn’t innate yet but “I think it worked out pretty good. Felt good to get back in there, to get hit, to get tackled a little. So, it was pretty good.”

Tagovailoa said he continues his jiu-jitsu training weekly in order to build muscle memory.

“It’s almost been to a point where it’s been in the flow of things with how I’ve been doing things throughout the week,” he said.

It’s unclear whether Tagovailoa will play in Miami’s preseason finale against the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Saturday. But whether he sees the field or not, he said the team is approaching the week as if it were their season opener, which begins on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sept. 10.

“Our focus starts here with Jacksonville,” he said. “We’re treating this as if it were a game week. So, just preparing the way we would on a normal day-to-day week. Normal down and distances, third downs, [red zone] area. And we’ll see what they give us. I’m preparing as if I’m going to play.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email