It was hot here Tuesday.
Like Florida hot.
A trip north for the Dolphins was no escape from the 90-degree practices.
So you could forgive Cameron Wake if he pulled the veteran card and taken a Dwyane Wade rest day.
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If there’s anyone who doesn’t need the work of training camp, it’s Wake.
He’s 35 now, the oldest defensive player on either the Dolphins or the Eagles, who hosted joint practices between the two teams this week. He’s coming off his fifth Pro Bowl appearance, and coaches say he looks better than ever.
Plus, to channel a Philadelphia legend, we’re talking about practice.
And yet, there Wake was Tuesday — running, spinning and sweating.
“I enjoy it,” Wake said. “I like stress. I like fight. I like grind. I feel like it separates people. Everybody's going to be great in shorts and shoulder pads, playing two plays and come off the field, going through the pads. That's great. But what happens when you've got 10 plays in a row, it's hot, you're a little beat up? That's going to separate the men from the boys. That's going to show your true nature.”
Wake continued: “ We all know. Everybody who straps on the pads knows if this guy's going to be a wolf or a sheep. Those are the kind of guys you want. There's really on way to see it, and that's add a little bit of fire. That obviously is going to show your character.”
Wake will be the Week 1 starter at defensive end for the Dolphins. It seems strange to have to say it, but after last year’s ill-begotten maintenance plan — coaches tried to limit Wake’s snaps early in the season, but in doing so, he barely saw the field — it bears repeating.
Sure, the Dolphins tried to take some stress off Wake this offseason by drafting Charles Harris and trading for William Hayes. And yet, this week only reinforced that Wake remains Miami’s best pass rusher — and it’s not even close.
“That’s why you see a guy coming back year after year,” Adam Gase said of Wake’s attitude. “When that stuff becomes kind of you don’t want to do it anymore, that’s probably when most guys don’t do it anymore. They retire. I don’t see that from him. I see a guy that comes out every day and works hard. He goes as hard as anybody on the defense and the offense.”
Gase added: “He’s always trying to get better and he’s trying to get in a rhythm with the D-tackles, and we do some things where him and other ends are together. He’s got a special knack to just keep coming back and he just looks like a 25-year-old kid out there running around, full of energy and just looking to get better every day.”
Wake said he learned something about himself by working against the Eagles’ offensive line, but that’s nothing new. He grows as a player every week, he said. He’s “never been a guy to step down from any challenge. ... I'm not built that way.”
Perhaps Wake has that makeup because of his path to the NFL — undrafted and unwanted out of college, a CFL success story. It’s a chip on his shoulder that no degree of success can lift.
“I had to grind and scratch and claw,” Wake said. “I feel like this is a parallel, training camp. It's not easy. I'm one of the oldest guys out here. I'm out here just doing what I feel inside.”
Wake added: “I'm going to do whatever I can, whatever I have to, to make it in this door. If you're going to close it, I'm going to break through. If you're going to shut another one, I'm going to open it. And it's kind of like football. If there are guys in your way, you have to get there. You can't, if it's hard and you quit, or it's hot and you quit. Those aren't the guys that are going to make it through today and make it onto the team.”