DAVIE—One of the most interesting things to watch with the Dolphins in Sunday’s home game against Tennessee will be the unleashing of Rey Maualuga.
There’s been a ton of buildup for this. Maualuga signed in mid-August and has yet to take the field for any game, preseason or regular season, for a variety of reasons. They held him out originally because he was out of shape. The Bengals released him after last season and he spent all year waiting for someone to call, so he wasn’t in any offseason workouts or Organized Team Activities.
His weight is a compelling topic because he’s much heavier than many linebackers in today’s NFL—Kiko Alonso, for example, is 25 pounds lighter—but that’s the weight that works for him. Part of what’s made Maualuga a good player the past eight years is that he can move well at that size and power through offensive linemen.
He was likely over 270 pounds when the Dolphins signed him. Now he’s listed at 258.
Maualuga got in playing condition heading into what would’ve been the Week 1 game against Tampa Bay, but injured his hamstring in practice. That kept him out against the Chargers, Jets and Saints. This week looks it’ll be his debut, and he said he’s been working with the starters in preparation for the Tennessee game.
As he gets ready to finally hit the field for the Dolphins, here’s a conversation with Maualuga about playing heavy and restarting his career with Miami:
You had to lose weight, but you wouldn’t want to lose too much weight. What exactly is the middle ground for you?
“I’ve played with this and been this size, whether it’s low 260s or high 260s. I’ve been that size my whole playing career, and I think that’s where I’m more effective coming down. I’m mostly known for stopping the run and taking on big guys. In my nature, you’ve gotta be that big to be effective in the middle.
“They’ve been very cool about it. They haven’t really been on my ass about, ‘Well, this is the weight we want you to be’ every week. As long as you can move, as long as you’re looking good on film, as long as you’re running around and it’s not stopping you from doing the things they’re asking of you, there’s really no point in trying to be a number that people think is good enough to be a middle linebacker.”
What was the big drop? What’s the highest and lowest you’ve been since you got here?
“I stand on there and tell them not to tell me the weight. I don’t want to know. I care how I look. But you feel good, you look good in the mirror and you run good and you feel alright, then they give you a number and you’re like, ‘What the (expletive)? Where is it?’ It (messes) up your whole day. You’re doing all this conditioning and extra (stuff) and cutting back what you eat, and then that number just (messes) you up.”
What’s a food you’ve given up?
“I blame my daughter because she always wants a Happy Meal. That’s all her.”
So you’d be going and getting a nice healthy salad or something, but your five-year-old daughter drags you to McDonald’s against your will?
“Pretty much. I’m always trying to eat something healthy. I had a chef for a little bit in Cincinnati, and she says, ‘No, I don’t want to eat that, Daddy.’ So, you know, McDonald’s is right down the street and I just want to be nice to my daughter. Then when I get there I’m like, ‘I’m not gonna get something,’ but then you look at the menu and you’re like, ‘(Shoot), alright, that fish filet don’t look too bad.’ I don’t know.”
What else did you cut out?
“You know us Polynesians, we love rice. That’s what I had to cut out as well, all that starch. All these processed foods that lazy people get at the grocery store and then throw in microwave. Those things you think are gonna be healthy like Lean Pockets and all that (stuff), it ain’t. All that (stuff) is convenient.”
Have you started eating any new foods?
“Nah. I used to blame my daughter, but now I try to blame genetics. You never see a skinny Samoan or Polynesian guy. Well, other than Troy. Troy Polamalu. He’s the exception. It’s like big bones. I don’t know.”
It says you’re 258 now. Do you feel like yourself at that weight?
“I feel great. They’re not pressuring me to do anything out of the ordinary. I’m worrying about drying myself out, and that can lead to strains and pulls. They just tell me to be me. Be you, do what you’re asked and don’t go crazy on eating. It might be hard to sit here and listen to me say that I don’t, but I don’t.
“You and I could eat something and—You could lose 10 pounds just eating that (stuff) and I’ll (expletive) gain three pounds. It’s weird. My digestive system, I can’t explain it.”
I’m not sure about the science behind what you’re saying.
“You’ve never heard someone say they could eat something but still lose weight?”
How exactly would that work?
“No? I get that (stuff) all the time. We weigh in every Thursday and I’m like, ‘Oh (shoot), I’ve gotta eat light tonight’ the night before, but Mike Hull on the other hand, he’ll be like, ‘Oh (expletive), I can eat whatever the (expletive) I want’ because he’ll wake up the next morning and be down five pounds. I’m not saying you could eat a (expletive) footlong and lose weight; I’m just saying some people break it down quicker.”
Have you ever have to cut weight before?
“I’ve had to.”
Was it difficult changing teams and moving to Miami this late in your career?
“It’s not hard. (Defensive coordinator Matt) Burke was in Cincinnati. The only thing I had to adjust to was heat.”
“I’ve been blessed a couple days practicing outside it’s been either raining or overcast or a nice little breezed, as opposed to what guys are saying about, ‘You haven’t experienced the 100-plus-degree heat during camp.’ Thank God I wasn’t here for that. I’d have had to reevaluate my decision.”
It never really cools down here, though.
“Right. But in Cincinnati, it was all four seasons. But now it’s more like 90-degree weather.”
What was it like the first time you tried to practice in it? How’d it go?
“Well the first time I (expletive) came out in that was at the airport. I was standing there sweating.”
But what about your first actual workout, given the conditions and your conditioning not being right?
“It wasn’t too bad. I’ve carried this weight for my career, so I guess some people can carry it better than others. When coaches see a number, they can say, ‘Well, Rey’s this (weight), but I don’t think the other linebackers could be that and perform the way Rey can perform.’”
You’re a little bit of an anomaly in that sense.
“Right. If I dropped down too much in weight, I might not be as effective.”
The weight is part of what’s made you good, probably.
“Right, yeah. So trying to tell me to—But I get what they’re saying. The evolution is that linebackers have changed due to it being a throwing league. Now all the linebackers are much smaller, in the 230s or 220s. The (Luke) Kuechlys and Kiko and (expletive) Timmons is about 240.”
Alonso is about the same size as Reshad Jones.
“Yeah. Would he be able to carry 260? Probably not. Everyone is different. I’ve felt comfortable with how I’ve weighed.”
So your conditioning is good now? You can get through a whole practice with no issues?
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Everything’s fine. But the older you get, the more you’ve gotta take care of your body. I’ve gotta get in the cold tub, the hot tub, massages, (stuff) I’ve never done before. It was usually (expletive) when we’re done with practice, just go home.”
And maybe stop by McDonald’s.
“No, that was the off days. Occasionally (his daughter) would beg me to get out of the house to go do that. I’m not saying every time she wanted to go get a Happy Meal I’d get something, but if I hadn’t eaten at the time, I would get a little.”
What’s you going crazy at McDonald’s?
“I don’t go crazy at McDonald’s. It might sound gross, but a fish filet would be my choice.”
On the scale of McDonald’s food, that’s somewhat reasonable.
“Well, I mean, it’s probably not real fish. It’s probably fake.”
Still better for you than a Big Mac, I think.
“Oh. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But when I order, I don’t think about the calorie count and all that. I just get it.”
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