Some things to know about linebacker Rey Maualuga, who signed with the Dolphins over the weekend:
• The run-stopper the Dolphins need? When Maualuga, 30, was released by the Bengals in March, he had started all but 10 of his 114 career games and made 343 tackles. The Cincinnati Enquirer pointed out he was “one of the primary weapons in stopping the run.”
The Dolphins were 30th in the NFL against the run last season.
But The Enquirer also wrote: “Maualuga saw his playing time decrease significantly as last year wore on, struggling to produce at the level of previous seasons. Maualuga played on just 30 percent of defensive snaps compared to 57 percent in 2015.”
After starting 14 games and making 43 solo tackles in 2015, Maualuga started just six games and made 17 tackles last season.
The Enquirer quoted defensive coordinator Paul Guenther as saying, “He realizes the way the league is now. I tell Rey a lot he’s synonymous with the fullback. The run-stopping linebacker is the fullback, as soon as you see the fullback run on the field he can run on, too. But that doesn’t happen very often.”
• Weighty issue: When Maualuga’s 2012 season didn’t begin as expected, Guenther thought he pinpointed the issue. Maualuga was playing at 267 pounds, a career high. So Guenther showed Maualuga tape of himself as a rookie and compared it with Maualuga with the added weight. Maualuga got the message and quickly shed 20 pounds by dieting and doing extra running in a sweatshirt.
“It’s taking care of your body, eat the right things and not snack on chips or frozen foods,” Maualuga told The Dayton Daily News. “I watch my diet and keep it consistent.”
The Bengals moved Maualuga a bit off the line of scrimmage, giving him time to diagnose plays.
“It’s a different league,” Maualuga said. “It’s not smash-mouth. There’s no need to be that big anymore. I’m still physical enough to be able to come down and hit someone.”
The Dolphins list Maualuga at 6-feet-2 and 258 pounds. Rosters from the 2009 Bengals — his rookie year — range from 250 to 254 pounds.
• Sadness over Seau: Maualuga became friendly with another USC linebacker, Junior Seau, the former Charger and Dolphin who committed suicide in 2012. Maualuga had appeared in two of Seau’s charity golf tournaments and visited Seau’s California home. He also wore Seau’s No. 55 growing up.
“For a guy with that kind of influence and it still wasn’t enough to be happy,” Maualuga said. “If something he was going on, he did a good job of hiding it.”
• ‘I grew up’: Maualuga was taken in the second round, 38th overall, by the Bengals in 2009. Considering he expected to go in the first round, he used it as motivation.
It’s possible his status was hurt when some teams weren’t happy with his Combine interviews. He also was charged with striking a man at a party his freshman season. The charge was dropped when Maualuga completed a diversion program.
“You’re only given a certain amount of chances,” Maualuga told The Orange County Register in 2008. “I grew up.”
• Trying times as youngster: Maualuga overcame a difficult childhood that involved frequent moves by his family. Although he says the family wasn’t poor, at one point the Maualugas lived in the attic of a church after being evicted from their apartment. He recalls wrapping up leftovers from breakfast and having the same meal again for both lunch and dinner.
“We weren’t dying in the streets,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2008. “But at the same time, things were hard.”
The most difficult period was in the weeks surrounding the charge for striking a man. His father, Talatonu, was succumbing to brain cancer. As a tribute, Rey began wearing eye-black stickers with DAD written on them. He also sports a tattoo honoring his father.
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