DAVIE, Fla. -- If it was up to Rey Maualuga, there would not be any question as to whether he would be the Miami Dolphins’ starting middle linebacker in the regular season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But Maualuga's status for Sunday remains unknown.
Maualuga practiced on Monday and that is expected to continue throughout the week. After signing with the Dolphins two weeks ago, he needed to get in football shape. Maualuga was unable to play in last week’s preseason finale.
However, the nine-year linebacker said he is optimistic about his chances to play in some capacity against the Buccaneers.
“I feel great,” Maualuga said. “Now, I’m just going to keep doing what I need to do to keep getting on the field. I obviously can’t control what the coaches say and how much he puts me out there. But I’m going to keep preparing as if I am going to play. But, at the end of the day, it’s a coaching decision whether I suit up or not.”
Mike Hull is the incumbent starting middle linebacker until further notice.
Maualuga signed on Aug. 19 and was overweight. He appeared heavy on his feet during early practices but looks in better shape after spending two weeks with the team.
“Obviously it’s not hard to shed weight in this humidity. ... But it’s coming there,” Maualuga said. “I guess it all depends when I actually get on the field to actually tell how I feel and how well I perform. I’m not going to go out there and make myself look bad.”
On a lighthearted note, Maualuga finally got his No. 58 jersey, which is what he wore for eight seasons in Cincinnati. Brandon Watts held the number and the two couldn’t work out a jersey swap. Watts was released during roster cuts over the weekend.
Maualuga practiced for two weeks without a jersey number because No. 72 was the only jersey available when Miami had 90 players.
“It didn’t cost me anything,” Maualuga said. “So, again, I knew eventually something was going to happen, whether I got 58 or I got another number. Obviously, I wouldn’t want to wear another number. But it was only a matter of time whether I got a jersey or not.”