HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 19: Tua Tagovailoa #1 of the Miami Dolphins on the sidelines during the preseason game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on August 19, 2023 in Houston, Texas. The Dolphins defeated the Texans 28-3.
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Tua Tagovailoa Claps Back at ESPN's Ryan Clark Over Weight Joke

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa didn't appreciate ESPN's Ryan Clark making jokes about his size after a preseason game.

Don't come after Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's work ethic, because he will take exception.

After ESPN's Ryan Clark sniped at Tagovailoa on Monday's episode of ESPN's "NFL Live," the Dolphins quarterback fired back on Tuesday.

After Tagovailoa threw an interception on his first preseason pass attempt, Clark joked that the Alabama alum "wasn't in the gym" over the offseason, noting that he looks "thick." The game in question was his first since his second concussion of 2022 forced him to miss the last two games of the Dolphins' regular season, as well as their postseason matchup with the Bills. Tagovailoa bounced back the next series, as he completed five passes out of six attempts throughout a 14-play, 93-yard touchdown drive.

The "thick" comment is particularly strange considering that Tagovailoa visibly appears to have gained some muscle this offseason, due to an increased emphasis on durability after missing time with injuries in recent years. The visible change in size likely is due to the team's offseason program, rather than in spite of it. He's received criticism throughout his college and pro career for being potentially too small to play at the NFL level, so Clark's reaction to the added bulk is a surprising one. Muscle mass won't often prevent concussions, which did jeopardize Tagovailoa's 2022 season and even career, but it could help him absorb some of the contact that leads to tissue-based injuries.

Tagovailoa responded respectfully but firmly, explaining the amount of work and sacrifice that go on behind the scenes not just for him but all of the Dolphins. And he requested that Clark and anyone else who may have comments about his work ethic or preparation to "keep [his] name out of your mouth."

This is a big year for Tua and the Dolphins, after finishing 9-8 the past two seasons, including that playoff appearance a year ago. They have the personnel to compete in a loaded AFC East division, headlined by the star wideout duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The team went 8-5 in Tagovailoa's starts in 2022. But that includes a loss against the Bengals, the game that he had to exit with the first major concussion; and a loss against the Packers, where he visibly was not physically at his best, just before getting shut down for the season.

Tagovailoa, who has become a bit of a lightning rod for media criticism, is also the NFL's reigning passer rating leader with a figure of 105.5, as well as yards per attempt. He had the best completion percentage on passes 20-plus yards downfield out of all passers with over 25 such attempts, his second-consecutive season in the top 3 for that figure.

After showing he's capable of that kind of production, the biggest thing Tua has to prove this year is that he can play 17 games and beyond. We'll see if his offseason regimen helps him in that pursuit and, if so, just how far he can take Miami.

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