Prime dinner equals prime time for Tua Tagovailoa, teammates to bond in Tampa

TAMPA — It wasn’t Tua Tagovailoa’s idea. Someone in his group thought it would be nice to head out to dinner to celebrate a couple of birthdays in the party. Tagovailoa may not have been the instigator behind the affair, but as the quarterback of the Dolphins, the onus was on him to be the closer on a fine evening out.

“A big dinner tab,” Tagovailoa said. “But I mean, it was good. Everyone enjoyed themselves. And I picked up the Uber.”

Tagovailoa wouldn’t say how large the dinner tab was, only that it was more than $1,000, which isn’t surprising considering that Ocean Prime (slogan: “Elegance, elevated”) hits you up for $20 for lobster bisque and up to $2,600 for fine wine.

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa throws a pass during Wednesday's workout vs. the Buccaneers in Tampa.
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa throws a pass during Wednesday's workout vs. the Buccaneers in Tampa.

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Tagovailoa and the Dolphins will find it money well spent if the night — and this trip — have the intended effects.

The Dolphins open the preseason Saturday night in Tampa vs. the Buccaneers. They could have headed upstate Friday and made it a standard quickie road trip. Instead, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel and Bucs coach Todd Bowles agreed on joint practices Wednesday and Thursday, which is how a 60-minute exhibition game turned into spending the better part of a week outside their comfort zone.

In the NFL, this is known as team bonding.

“We got to go out to dinner with a couple of the guys the first night, also got to actually just walk through the mall with the guys yesterday and then go to dinner again,” Tagovailoa said. “I thought it was a pretty cool trip. It felt a little weird because we’re still in training camp.”

The football benefit? Spending extra time with teammates you might not.

“We’re able to talk through some things that we don’t normally get to talk through until the day of practice,” Tagovailoa said.

Tua Tagovailoa watches, chats with Tom Brady

If the Dolphins someday look back to that week in Tampa as the time they truly became a team, it’ll be worth it. Certainly, it can’t hurt for Tagovailoa to stand on a practice field and watch the master, Tom Brady, at work.

“I was able to talk to Tom,” Tagovailoa said. “I mean, we were talking on the side for a good bit. He was just asking how the offseason was. We were talking a little about golf at the same time. But for the most part, you know, 23 years playing. I mean, that's a long time. That's a lot of knowledge.”

Included in that knowledge is how to be an effective passer despite bedlam breaking out in your pocket. Tagovailoa, 24, was making mental notes about that Wednesday.

“Tom’s composure in the pocket,” Tagovailoa said. “Nothing really rattles him. When you’ve got a guy in your face and you just make subtle movements and throwing the ball — I would say those are top qualities in a really good quarterback with him, Russ (Russell Wilson), Aaron Rodgers, all those big-time guys.”

Yes, Tagovailoa received “some good insight” from Brady, but nothing he was willing to share with the world.

“I’m going to keep that between me and Tom,” Tagovailoa said.

Probably a good move, just in case Brady ever becomes, well, his boss. There is, naturally, That Whole Tampering Thing hanging over this week, threatening to give it an awkward feel no matter how much the key figures say they won’t let it.

When a Tampa reporter tried to ask Tagovailoa how he felt about the Dolphins courting Brady even after they drafted him, Tagovailoa asked him to speak up twice. Maybe the background noise was drowning out the question. Maybe Tagovailoa hoped the guy would just give up.

“I’m still here,” Tagovailoa said. “So yeah. I mean, I’m still here. To me, that’s all noise at this point.”

Hal Habib covers the Dolphins for The Post. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Tampa trip a bonding experience for Tagovailoa, Dolphins teammates