Tua prepares for challenge of Chiefs, Mahomes as Dolphins ingratiate themselves in Germany

FRANKFURT, Germany — All it took was a nine-hour flight, a day to themselves for Miami Dolphins players to explore a new country and a night to get rested for the week of practice in Germany.

The Dolphins decided to travel over the Atlantic Ocean early in the week ahead of facing the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s NFL international series showdown in Frankfurt. The decision has drawn rave reviews from players who had their Tuesday off day to knock out some sightseeing before it becomes business as usual for a Wednesday-Thursday-Friday practice schedule leading up to Sunday — all while getting acclimated to the five-hour time difference, which becomes six hours Sunday morning.

Following Wednesday’s practice at PSD Bank Arena, the Dolphins were ingratiating themselves with the German media.

Players took turns reciting phrases they have learned in their brief time in the country. Outside linebacker Jaelan Phillips, who has been to Germany before — but not Frankfurt — visiting an aunt who was stationed there in the military, proved he can count to 20 in German.

Eins, zwei, drei, vier, fünf, sechs, sieben, acht, neun, zehn, elf, zwölf, dreizehn, vierzehn, fünfzehn, sechzehn, siebzehn, achtzehn, neunzehn, zwanzig,” Phillips reels off.

Fact-checked, via Google Translate, he nailed it.

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said, “Hello, how are you?” in German: “Hallo, wie geht es dir?” Then, he helped a curious German reporter who wanted to hear him pronounce the full, extended version of his first name: “Tuanigamanuolepola,” Tagovailoa sounded out.

Safety Jevon Holland is having such a good time in Germany, he hopes the NFL does more international travel than it’s already doing.

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“It’s like a free vacation, and we get to play,” Holland said. “I’m always down for that, especially if we leave on Monday. … The flight was not long — hop, skip and a jump over the water.”

Not everyone agreed with him on the last point, as Tagovailoa, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and cornerback Xavien Howard all noted a challenge in adjusting their sleep schedule. But you can certainly count Phillips as on board with the extended stay no matter the duration of the flight.

“I love traveling, and I haven’t been to Frankfurt before, so I was super excited to come out regardless,” he said. “I would’ve been disappointed if we came out for the Friday morning and only had a day to go see the city, or just playing the game and leaving.”

But the Dolphins also know they’re abroad to play a game, and it’s a big one, against the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs. The winner Sunday at Deutsche Bank Stadium will be 7-2, and the AFC’s No. 1 seed through nine games heading into their bye week.

Tagovailoa, while the Dolphins quarterback noted he goes up against the Chiefs defense and vice-versa for Kansas City signal-caller Patrick Mahomes, knows that him being on the opposite sideline means he has to put up points.

“It’s never easy going against Pat,” Tagovailoa said.

He last faced Mahomes in 2020, as a rookie. It was an early career high for Tagovailoa, when he threw for 316 yards in his sixth start to keep the Dolphins on relative pace with the Chiefs in a 33-27 loss at Hard Rock Stadium.

“I think there’s a lot of things that are different,” Tagovailoa said. “One being the offensive system that I’m playing in now compared to the offensive system that I had then, and the supporting cast that I have. Really, there’s just a lot of things that are different.”

Coach Mike McDaniel is excited to see Tagovailoa rise to the challenge of facing Mahomes and the Chiefs on a big stage and international platform.

“It’s only going to get bigger if you’re doing your job the way that you want to,” McDaniel said. “There’s attention. There’s storylines. There’s questions. The fact of the matter is that people that are successful at a high level in professional sports, that doesn’t seem to bother them.”

The Dolphins defense understands it will have it hands full with Mahomes.

“Sometimes, he looks like a magician with some of the things he does,” Phillips said. “But at the end of the day, you just have to be disciplined in your rush.”

Added Tagovailoa of facing Kansas City: “It’ll give us a chance to see where we’re at going into this bye week, as a team.”

And Mahomes, of course, has tight end Travis Kelce to throw to. Kelce’s new relationship with popular musical artist Taylor Swift has driven a large non-traditional sports following to the Chiefs.

“That’s going to be fun, I guess,” Waddle said of Swift possibly attending Sunday. “I’m a Swiftie.”

Tagovailoa said he got to roam the city Tuesday and even go golfing. He was coy, almost awkwardly, when asked whether or not he has been noticed or recognized out in the town.

Holland said he enjoyed a bratwurst and wants to find a German antique shop for a vintage watch.

“I tried to just be a ghost among the people and just see how the culture is,” the safety said.

Tagovailoa, who previously played an international game in London in 2021, is looking forward to seeing how German fans react to American football Sunday.

“I don’t know how many people from Germany watch American football,” Tagovailoa said. “That’s what I would say I’m excited about. For the fans, I’d like to know what they’d be cheering for. If it’s a field goal they cheer for, it’s a field goal they cheer for — and things like that. If they have chants, we’d love to hear them.”