Dolphins players say they're excited about Tua's 1st start

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Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) celebrates his first NFL play with Miami Dolphins running back Matt Breida (22), Miami Dolphins guard Ted Karras (67) and Miami Dolphins running back Lynn Bowden (15) against the New York Jets during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Tagovailoas winning personality helped the Miami Dolphins avoid locker room backlash when he was promoted to replace popular veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)

MIAMI – Tua Tagovailoa’s winning personality helped the Miami Dolphins avoid any locker room backlash when he was promoted to replace popular veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Plus, Tagovailoa's teammates believe he's really good.

“You wouldn’t think he was a rookie if you watched him in practice,” defensive end Shaq Lawson said Monday, when the Dolphins returned from their bye weekend. "The kid is incredible, and I'm looking forward to going out there and playing with him Sunday.

“I've seen how athletic he is, how incredible a player he is. He's going to lead this team in the right way.”

Coach Brian Flores promoted Tagovailoa last week, and the Dolphins' top draft pick will make his first NFL start Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.

The timing of the change was surprising because the Dolphins (3-3) have won their past two games, and the 37-year-old Fitzpatrick said his demotion left him heartbroken.

Even so, players who have spoken publicly regarding the change say they're excited about Tagovailoa becoming the starter. That includes tight end Mike Gesicki, who is close to Fitzpatrick.

“Tua has done a phenomenal job earning everybody’s respect in the locker room,” Gesicki said. "Everyone has fun around him; he's a funny guy. And when he's out on the field he can flip a switch and make it serious.