Cameron Wake thinks he’s a little like that sleek Cadillac that your grandfather takes out of the garage twice a week for grocery runs.
“Everybody looks at me as an older guy, but this is my fifth year of football,” Wake told The Miami Herald on Monday. “I’m still young. I’m one of those late-model, low-mileage kind of guys.”
His stats indicate he’s a luxury vehicle. And Wake, 31, is still in his prime, he insists. Now only if he could get his peers — not to mention the national media — to think the same.
Wake recorded 15 sacks a season ago, earning a second Pro Bowl nod in the process. He was one of only 27 players named to the 2012 NFL All-Pro first team. Pro Football Focus ranked him as far and away the best 4-3 defensive end in the league.
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But according to his peers, Wake somehow is only the 89th best player in the league. That was his ranking on NFL Network’s Top 100, as voted on by fellow players.
So does Wake get the respect he deserves?
“Uhhhh,” was his initial response — a first reaction in an honest moment.
Wake later said: “At the end of the day, when you give it your all on the field and do everything as far as your teammates are concerned, that’s obviously the respect. I don’t really concentrate too much on a lot of that stuff. I kind of do what I need to do on the field.”
What he has done has been pretty special. Wake has averaged more than 10 sacks per season since entering the league in 2009.
But by and large, his individual excellence has translated into very little team glory. Wake has never even been on a winning NFL team. That needs to change, he said Monday.
“Going into my fifth year, and not having actually touched one blade of grass in a playoff game, it’s frustrating, especially with the type of teams we’ve had over the past couple of years,” Wake said.
“We have to make sure we get off to fast start.”
When it comes to building team chemistry, Wake has done his part. An ardent traveler, he helped organize a getaway for the defensive line to the Dominican Republic this winter.
“It was more of a cleansing trip than anything,” defensive tackle Jared Odrick said with a chuckle.
(Odrick was full of one-liners after Monday’s organized team activities. When asked who put together a recent team outing to a Heat playoff game, Odrick quipped: “Well, [Randy] Starks is so bored … I get a group text from him every five seconds.” Starks is unhappy with his contract situation and holding out of voluntary workouts this spring.)
As for the on-field product, Wake said he’s impressed with the new pieces that have been added to the defense, which were acquired to create more turnovers and limit big passing plays.
Wake is now an elder on a team that has gone young. But there’s “still quite a bit” he can do better, coach Joe Philbin said, listing technique and pass coverage among them.
Wake readily admitted he’s far from a finished product. He doesn’t have a sack number in mind as a goal for the coming season, but instead has placed a priority on improving his all-around game.
“You start to pick up some of the old savvy vet moves, but still have the spring chicken legs and spring chicken bodies,” Wake said. “That’s the peak of your career, where you’re able to have a little bit of both.”