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Tua Tagovailoa finds fuel in criticism; Dolphins players dish on Brian Flores’ return to Miami

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, in his NFL career, has consistently said he doesn’t pay attention to outside criticism.

But ahead of Sunday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he showed a different side in an interview with NBC’s Maria Taylor.

“I take receipts,” Tagovailoa said, using the recently popular phrase for keeping tabs on what others have said. “I handle that internally now. Whatever I can use as fuel, whatever I think, ‘Oh, I can use this as fuel for myself,’ I will. If not, I won’t.”

Tagovailoa, in his third season out of Alabama and returning Sunday from a two-game absence due to a concussion, entered the year one of the most polarizing figures in the NFL. He has his staunch group of supporters and devoted critics.

Tagovailoa, who said he hired a mental coach to deal with criticism, revealed he first started experiencing it when his Crimson Tide lost the national championship game to Clemson his sophomore season.

“When I was in college, it would definitely bother me,” said Tagovailoa, who labeled that the time he began trying to stay off social media.

“I had to find a way to where I was trying to strive for excellence and not perfection,” Tagovailoa said. “Because then, for me, I knew I’d be lying to myself because I was never going to be perfect and I was going to be chasing something that wasn’t going to be there for me.

“I know I’m going to make mistakes, but it’s always about knowing better and then doing better.”

Flores’ return

Tagovailoa himself hasn’t had many nice things to say about his experience under the direction of former Dolphins coach Brian Flores in his first two NFL seasons. But, as Flores returned to Miami on Sunday night as a Steelers defensive assistant, several Dolphins players said this past week there are no hard feelings.

“It’s exciting, just to be able to see him in person,” safety Brandon Jones said. “I haven’t talked to him in a while, obviously, but I’m excited.”

“If I see him, I’ll say what’s up,” tight end Mike Gesicki. “I don’t know if we’ll cross paths, but I’ve got no ill will or anything towards coach Flo.”

Right guard Robert Hunt also indicated he would like to greet him.

Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins felt it wouldn’t impact the game.

“It’s just business as usual,” Wilkins said. “We’re preparing to play the Steelers and obviously there’s history there with Flo and everything, but we’re just preparing business as usual getting ready for the Steelers.”

Flores’ straightforward style was enough to maybe sometimes rub players the wrong way, but others appreciated it.

“One thing I’ll say about coach Flo was he always honest,” linebacker Jerome Baker said. “That was the one thing that never changed. He didn’t care if he hurt your feelings. He didn’t care if it got under your skin a little bit. You knew the guy just wanted to be honest and he was going to tell you the truth, and he wanted the best out of you.”

Gesicki described Flores as “super disciplined.”

Flores, who named the Dolphins in a class-action lawsuit against the NFL after his firing in January, told ESPN this past week he doesn’t view Sunday as any sort of revenge game for him.

This story will be updated.

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