Rey Maualuga is taking baby steps in his return to football.
The veteran linebacker practiced in individual drills for the first time in a Dolphins uniform Sunday.
He anticipates getting snaps in the Dolphins’ preseason finale against Minnesota.
And Maualuga has “all the confidence in the world” that he’ll be ready for the regular-season opener.
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“[Strength coach] Dave Puloka is doing a great job of getting me there,” Maualuga added. “When I first got here, you can never get yourself prepared for the Miami heat unless you live in Miami. Cincinnati is hot and humid, but the Miami heat is something different for me. I'm getting there, slowly but surely. Things will work out.”
But he can’t play without a jersey number — which he still doesn’t have.
Maualuga wants the number he’s worn his whole career: No. 58. But Brandon Watts currents owns that number, and Maualaga will have to make it worth his while to give it up (at least this week).
“I’m waiting on someone to hand it over,” Maualuga said. “But you know it’s not going to be cheap. So I’m still trying to negotiate that in the locker room. And we’ll see if he pulls through the amount he wants.”
Maualuga added that Watts isn’t getting the Jay Cutler deal (Cutler paid top dollar to get No. 6 from Brandon Doughty a few weeks back).
Thing is, Maualuga might get the number for free on Saturday. That’s when the Dolphins have to cut their 53-man roster down to 90, and Watts is in danger of getting released.
Maualuga will have to pick a jersey number by Thursday if indeed he plays, which Adam Gase said was the plan.
“I just don't want to show up to the first game and just get thrown in there or whatnot,” Maualuga said. “The goal is to get some reps in Minnesota and see how things go from there.”
He added: “By then, I think physically, mentally, I'll be ready. It's been the same scheme that they ran in Cincinnati. Some different words here and there. But for the most part, I don't think it's going to be a drop-off for me.”