Dolphins LB Cameron Wake dropped by the NFL Network studios Monday and took a few minutes to share who he believes is the NFL’s best player, his take on criticism of QB Chad Henne and why he doesn’t engage in trash talk with Jets coach Rex Ryan.
What did starting your career in the CFL teach you?
CW: How about, “What did starting my career on my couch teach me?!?” Just getting to the CFL took a lot of scratching and clawing. I was never satisfied. I got up there and made the team, and some people thought that was great after being out of football. But that wasn’t enough, I wanted to start. I wanted to be the best player, the defensive rookie of the year. There were naysayers and haters. Then I was doing it. The second year, they said it was a fluke and I couldn’t do it again. Then I did it even better. It was that mentality where I wasn’t satisfied. It was the same situation making the Dolphins’ roster. But it wasn’t enough; I wanted to play. I wanted to get on the field and start and have it be my position, where I was “the guy.” I wanted to be a Pro Bowler and lead the league in sacks. If I would have gotten $1 for every time someone said I couldn’t do something, I would be a very wealthy man. It’s about never being satisfied and always striving for more.
You’ve gone from the couch to the Pro Bowl. Would you be here if you didn’t have a chip on your shoulder?
CW: I would like to think so. You can’t go back in time and wonder, if I was a first-round pick would I be as successful as I am today? Who knows? I would like to think that’s just who I am. That drive is in me regardless of whether I was the first pick and signed a big check and all that, or a guy who worked for much less and had to work his way up. I was joking yesterday about going from the couch to the “63rd-best player” in the NFL. Imagine that journey. That’s crazy.
Ah, yes, thanks for bringing up “The Top 100″ for me. You were No. 63 … who got your vote as the best player in the NFL?
CW: Well, not a quarterback (laughing)! Of course, it was a defensive player. Everyone has a different opinion of who that is. If it’s not a pass rusher, I’m going with Troy Polamalu. I’m a fan of his. If you ask people who the best team is in the NFL, you get 32 different answers. Everyone has their reasons why, and why your reason is wrong. I love the way the guy plays. He’s hard-nosed and smart. If you clock him, I don’t think he’s the fastest. In the weight room, he’s probably not the strongest. He’s definitely not the biggest. But he makes plays and gets to the ball. I like the way he plays the game.
If you had $1 for every time you were asked about Chad Henne, would you be rich? Or just enough to buy lunch?
CW: I would have a nice little stash to deposit. As a quarterback, he’s the guy who gets all the praise when you win and all the criticism when you lose. I think the last couple of years, we haven’t had the type of success we’ve wanted to, and obviously he’s the guy who takes a lot of the lumps. But, yeah, I get asked about it.
Does Henne get unfairly criticized?
CW: I’ll admit it, I’m on both sides of the fence. I’m a guy who thinks when we lose, it’s not the quarterback’s fault, and when you win, it’s not solely his doing either. It’s a team of 53 guys who all week go out there and do their job, and he’s a part of that, just like anybody else. I’ve never won or lost a game, and I don’t know any quarterbacks who have either. … If you’re losing, the quarterback is going to get a lot of criticism, and it’s not all his fault. When you’re winning, he didn’t do it by himself. I’m a team guy. Everybody deserves the criticism, and everyone deserves the praise.
Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?
CW: Chad Henne, how about that? I make a living trying to dismember quarterbacks, if you will. That guy with the long hair, we play him twice a year, so he’s definitely not on my fan list. I’m always trying to get at him. I’ll stick with Henne.
Teams are passing on the chance to be on “Hard Knocks.” Would you want the Dolphins to get the call?
CW: Oh, man. Good question. Everyone does it across the league, where they come home at night and watch it while you study your playbook. We were watching that team in green (the Jets). It’s a good and bad thing. The camera crews would be around all the time and in and out of team functions. In some sense, I think a lot of people wouldn’t want to be out on TV. At the same time, you get that recognition and maybe an audience you wouldn’t have reached. I don’t know how our ownership or coaches would response. Tony Sparano isn’t exactly an attention guy. I’m 50-50 on it.
Will the situation surrounding Brandon Marshall have an impact on the team?
CW: Not speaking specifically about him, but I don’t think that whatever is going on off the field is a distraction as a professional. Our job is to leave those things off the field. We’re taught that. Whatever is off the field, Coach will tell you that when you pull in the parking lot, you lock your car, and it stays in there. When you come inside the facility, it’s work time. You leave all those issues, whatever they are, there. If it doesn’t have anything to do with football, it doesn’t exist. That’s how we approach it.
Will you ever lead the NFL in sacks?
CW: Well, into the last weekend of last season, I was leading the league. My boy DeMarcus Ware came up with three in the last game. We were playing the long-haired people, they got up on us, and they were already in the playoffs, so they put the passing game in the toilet. They must have run the ball 90 percent of the time, so I had no opportunities.
So it’s Bill Belichick’s fault then?
CW: No (laughing)! It’s our fault because we lost the game. If we had been up, they would have been throwing the ball and we would have been in a position to get some sacks. I don’t even know if they threw the ball after halftime. Not that I was counting, but I found later from one of my coaches. I let (Ware) hear about it at the Pro Bowl.
Have you ever wanted to give some of that talk back to Rex Ryan?
CW: No, I don’t say much. I’m about the worst guy to mike up during a game, ever. I’m not a talker. One, it doesn’t do anything in my opinion. You talk all day, but at the end of the day, you have to put the ball on the ground. You can yell and scream. Actions speak louder than words. I’m not going to say anything, but watch me do this. I conserve my energy, and my celebrating a sack is my trash talking. To waste my energy talking to him while he’s on the sideline, that doesn’t do it.