One of the low spots (among oh so many) in the Miami Dolphins 2015 season came during a Thursday night game in late October against the New England Patriots. Late in the third quarter, defensive end Cameron Wake was rushing around the left edge when he suddenly and noticeably began favoring his left leg. He continued rushing towards quarterback Tom Brady for several seconds until the ball was thrown, then fell to the turf.
And didn’t get up.
Fans felt their heart cringe, as all were well aware that one of the league’s toughest players doesn’t stay down on the field unless something is seriously wrong.
And something was seriously wrong. Wake had ruptured his achilles tendon, and was lost for the season. And the Dolphins defensive woes, already in free fall, took yet another turn for the worst.
Fast forward ten months, and Wake’s recovery has gone well. He’s been running full speed since spring, and has participated fully since training camp opened last month. And although fully expected to play in Week 1 of the regular season, Wake has been held out of the preseason games so far. With this week’s game Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons being the third preseason game, most of the starters are expected to see extensive action, possibly playing a series into the second half.
Whether or not Wake plays remains to be seen, as the team is approaching their defensive elder statesman with caution.
Head coach Adam Gase noted, “So what we are going to do is he's going to make sure he goes through warmups, he's going to get ready to go, and we're just going to see how he feels before the game. It's going to come down to really just him and myself, before the game saying, 'Hey, we're rolling or we're not.' I'm going to kind of put it on him just because he knows how he feels, and once he feels right, then we'll get him out there.”
Wake understands the situation, and while he is anxious to get to work, saying "I always need work. If you're not getting better, you're getting worse, and you need to retire," he is quick to point out that this is not a matter of him wanting to play and coaches wanting to hold him back.
“We're all working together,” Wake says. “It's not me and them. It's us. We're all on the same side working together to do what's best for everybody involved. We'll see what happens Thursday. It'll be a game-time decision and we'll take it from there.”
"I've been playing since July 27th,” Wake continued. “This is not really a new thing for me. I've been down this road a few times. I think more is made of it than it really is, actually. It's kind of funny.”
A noted workout warrior in the weight room, there is no question that Wake has been diligent in his rehab, and will be physically fine when he does take the field. But is he worried about the mental aspect of returning from such a devastating injury and trusting his achilles the next time he thrusts off of it?
"Football is a mental and physical game,” says Wake. “I've spoken about this before; the physical thing is not really new. Building muscle, running, playing football is not a new part. Just getting to the point where you're comfortable out there and not thinking about it, that's the only thing you've got to really worry about.
“I'm not necessarily worried about it, to be honest. I'll trust it when I need to trust it.”
When asked if the chemistry with his fellow defensive line mates, Ndamukong Suh and Mario Willimas, is a factor, Wake brushed that aside as well.
“If we were all a bunch of rookies, I think that would be one thing. But we all have a couple of (gray hairs) - I guess I've got the most. We've all been down this road. We've all played football - a lot of snaps. We've all had a lot of success. We've been playing together for quite a few snaps here in the past month or however long it's been. I think we've come together quite nicely, and I think when the real games start happening, that's when those questions will get answered.
"I want to see guys play to their potential - me included, if I play. Going out there and just being the aggressive, fast, dominant front that we should be. I think anything less than that, to me, is not acceptable.”
And as for any cracks about him being the oldest guy along the defensive front, Wake takes that right in stride as well, insisting that it doesn’t bother him that his age (34) is brought up every time his name is mentioned.
“Nope, not at all. I've been old for five years now. I just laugh at that comment. Eventually I guess they'll be right.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
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