Tua misses OTAs on Tuesday for charity golf tourney. And Dolphins embrace tough schedule

After participating in the Miami Dolphins’ organized team activities Monday, Tua Tagovailoa was again absent Tuesday, although his absence from this practice session was expected because the quarterback made a prior commitment to take part in Nick Saban’s charity golf tournament in Alabama.

Tagovailoa reportedly missed OTA sessions last week amid ongoing contract negotiations with the Dolphins before showing up and practicing Monday in Miami Gardens, but his appearance was short-lived, with Tagovailoa missing Tuesday to participate in the Nick’s Kids Golf Tournament.

Tagovailoa, 26, starred for Saban at Alabama from 2017 to 2019, winning a national title as a freshman. Saban retired in January, but continues to host his annual charity golf tournament in Vestavia Hills, and Tagovailoa committed to participating in the tournament before the Dolphins’ schedule for OTAs was formalized.

Miami will hold another OTA on Thursday at Baptist Health Training Complex, next to Hard Rock Stadium, and close out OTAs with three more practice sessions next week. All practices are voluntary.

Tagovailoa, who led the NFL in passing yards last season, is seeking a contract extension worth more than $45 million annually, which would make him one of the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in the league.

McDaniel embraces Dolphins’ challenging schedule

The final month-plus of the Dolphins’ schedule could be daunting, with at least two prime-time games and four of its final six games on the road, and coach Mike McDaniel is embracing that challenge.

“If you’re wanting to change the narrative,” the coach said, “you’re going to have an opportunity.”

Miami opens the regular season with three of four at home and a bye week in Week 6, but the relatively manageable start to the season means the end of the season could be grueling, starting with a prtime-time game against the Packers on Thanksgiving.

The Dolphins also play the division-rival Jets twice in their final five games, and have road games against Texans and Browns, both of whom made the 2023-24 NFL playoffs, during the final stretch of the regular season. Miami’s game in Cleveland is also in prime time during the penultimate week of the regular season, and its lone home game in the final month of the regular season is against the 49ers, who went to Super Bowl 58 last season.

“If you’re playing the right competitive football, you’ll always have unique challenges to your schedule. If you’re playing the right type of football, you’ll have prime-time games which are short or long weeks, all of those things,” McDaniel said. “The opportunities down the stretch of the season are ones that this team, at that point in time, will be thirsting for. That’s something that, when I saw the schedule, I was pretty excited.”

Last year, the Dolphins were in control of their division throughout most of the season before coming up on a similarly daunting stretch at the end of the year, with three straight games against playoff teams to end the season. Miami lost the last two games of the regular season, including the finale to the Bills to let Buffalo steal away the division title and No. 2 seed in the American Football Conference.

Another similar setup in 2024 will give the Dolphins a chance to fix one of their biggest issues across the last few seasons.

“We’re trying to establish ourselves to take the next step as an organization. We’re trying to do that anyway, so the fact that the schedule gives us the opportunity to do what we’re working tirelessly to try to accomplish I thought it was fitting,” McDaniel said. “I’m not in the business of hiding from something. We’re going to have to pay the piper at some point.”

Dolphins set joint practices

The Dolphins will hold at least one joint practice with each of their three preseason opponents this year, building on a growing trend of increasing joint practices across the NFL.

Miami will hold two joint practices with the Falcons ahead of its first game of the preseason in August, and one joint practice each against the Commanders and Buccaneers before each of the final two preseason games. The Dolphins also held two joint practices with Atlanta last preseason.

“Each offseason is a different code to crack. I think the specific needs of your team vary,” McDaniel said. “In this specific offseason, we have the opportunity to get a couple more valuable practices against varied looks, varied techniques.”

Across the NFL, 27 teams participated in joint practices last year, up from 23 in 2022. As star players participate in fewer and fewer preseason games each year, joint practices provide an opportunity for top players to participate in higher-intensity action while remaining in a controlled environment.

“The intensity of practice, in general, is raised to a degree when you’re going against a fresh new opponent. The players’ offseason, the way that our specific team practices against each other — I’m forecasting that it will be a breath of fresh air to see somebody else, so I think there’s a lot of things that go into it, but in this particular formula we saw a benefit in getting a couple more practice reps against opponents and adding to our offseason development.”