ORLANDO -- Cameron Wake stepped into some look-at-me pink shoes late Friday night after the Miami Dolphins finished off the Atlanta Falcons in the third preseason game for both teams. And the attention the footwear demanded is noteworthy because for a while now all the attention around Wake's feet has been centered mostly on his surgically repaired Achilles tendon that he ruptured last October.
But maybe after he played in a game for the first time since that injury, the conversation can start turning away from the Achilles injury. Maybe instead of focusing on Wake's injury status we should start focusing on his health status.
That status, Wake admits is not yet 100 percent 10 months after the injury.
“Probably not," Wake said. "That’s the truth. There’s just so much that you can do off the field. I’ve been working out, doing rehab, a lot of things. But the reality is football is hard to replicate. You can’t in the middle of the offseason have two guys pushing on you. It just doesn’t work that way … It’s coming. Obviously, I had a good step tonight in the right direction."
Wake, playing for the first time since he ruptured that Achilles tendon, had no tackles. He had no sacks. He did have a quarterback hurry on his first pass rush.
And still that was excellent because, well, it was a milestone. It signaled progress.
"Just trying to go back to ways of old," Wake said. "It has been awhile since I’ve actually played in a lot of games, so I’m taking all the things we’ve done in practice, all the rehab reps, and all the other stuff I’ve been doing. Finally, I’m just playing football again, just having fun. You kind of forget all the other stuff by doing what you do best."
The Dolphins intend to do what is best for keeping Wake healthy this year. And, as has been reported on this blog several times, that probably means making Wake a pass rush specialist at least early in the season as he continues to heal.
That certaintly looked to be the plan Friday.
“That was kind of the plan," Gase said. "I know we didn’t give you guys everything this week as far as what we were going to do, but we wanted him to play on third down. We wanted him to get some rushes in and get back in the feel of the game.
"That was the plan going into this game. Every day, we’re going to do more and more and get him to the point where he feels like it’s 100 percent, where we’re back and we’re ready to go a certain amount of snaps that we’ll talk about throughout the season. The goal is to make sure he plays 16-plus games, and tonight was a good first step for us.”
It stands to reason that if Wake is not 100 percent now and the way to get him there is with time and more game action, he might not be fully back to his old self until sometime in the regular season.
“It’s possible, but again, the game is not the only time you get it," Wake said. "We have quite a few big hogs in there who I fight with every day. Those are real reps … Whether it’s Tennessee or Seattle or Ja’Wuan (James), (Mike) Pouncey or whoever it may be, that’s the situation that you put your body in and you have to get it to respond."
And if that means Wake is a part-time player -- a pass rush specialist -- for the near future, he's fine with that because he sees a long-term plan in place that he's comfortable following.
"You have to start thinking long term," Wake said. "Of course, I want to be out there for every snap, but is that going to be best come December and January? You got to be honest and smart, and all of us working together, our plan is really good, and so far it’s working."