There wasn’t even a muted celebration in the Wake household Sunday night when the Dolphins clinched a playoff berth.
That’s because Cameron Wake didn’t know he was headed to the playoffs.
He was asleep.
And he didn’t learn of the first playoff appearance of his NFL career as soon as he woke up, either.
“The next morning I came in and somebody mentioned it,” Wake told The Post on Wednesday afternoon, sitting at his locker at the training facility. “I was probably sitting in this spot right here.”
Somebody mentioned it? Not exactly the response you’d expect from a defensive end who has made five Pro Bowls but conceded in the summer that never having the opportunity to appear in a playoff game was a “missing link” in his career.
If reaching that milestone triggered such a cool response from Wake, perhaps it figures that the way he looks at the Dolphins’ 10-5 season isn’t the way you’d think, either.
“I’m actually disappointed, to be very honest,” he said.
The last time Miami recorded double-digit wins also was the last time it made the playoffs, 2008. But this season qualifies as disappointing? Wake explains:
“There were games that we lost that we obviously should not. What’s our record, 10-5? I’m disappointed in our record. We shouldn’t have lost five games. There are games that we lost, hands down, we should have won.
“ … Looking at the guys, looking at the way we play, how we’re built, I was not the least bit surprised. If anything, we should probably beat some teams by more than we did.”
The Dolphins clinched their berth when Kansas City beat Denver on Sunday night. Figuring that watching the game “is not going to change anything,” Wake not only went to sleep, but didn’t bother to check his phone for the result when he woke up Monday. He didn’t punch up sports radio on the drive to work.
“It felt good but it’s hard to celebrate specifically because we have another task in front of us,” Wake said, referring to Sunday’s regular-season finale against visiting New England. “I know it’s there. It’s in the background. But my goal is still playing this weekend and doing our best to get another win. I guess Sunday after we win, then I’ll be able to celebrate.”
Probably not for long. From coach Adam Gase on down, the reaction on this team has been measured, perhaps to guard against falling into the just-happy-to-be-here trap once the playoffs start.
“I don’t think anybody’s thinking about, ‘All right, we’ve made it. Yeah, it’s over,’ ” Wake said. “No. If anything, this is where the journey begins, hopefully.”
Wake will gladly let others marvel at how this Dolphins team climbed out of a 1-4 hole. He compares that task to getting a sack on any given play. Whether your odds are great or awful, he says, it’s never going to happen without belief.
“If we put our head down and said, ‘Well, the season’s over,’ Pittsburgh would have come here and dusted us off,” Wake said.
Instead, it was the turning point of the season, a 30-15 victory that triggered a 9-1 run. Wake acknowledges that 99 percent of people would have thought it impossible.
“I don’t care about those people because they’re not the people out here doing what we’re doing,” he said.
Many had doubts that at age 34, Wake could come back from a devastating Achilles injury, have 11 1/2 sacks and make the Pro Bowl. Even the Dolphins apparently had doubts, relegating Wake to a designated pass rusher role early this season until realizing there was plenty left in his tank.
“I don’t think they would have doubted that could have happened,” Wake said. “But of course it’s entertainment at this point to me, to hear people who don’t know talk as if they do know. I don’t care if it’s football, me personally, the weather, anything. People generally think they know and it’s the ones usually speaking who have no idea. I mean, I’ve been too old for six years. I’ve been too small. I’ve been everything and here I am, talking to you. So if I was to ever let any of that seep into my mind, I wouldn’t be here.
“I’ve never thought about it. I laugh to myself when I hear it. ‘You’re too this, you’re too that.’ I know what I am and nobody else does. Still I rise.”
For how long? Wake unquestionably will get a serious look as comeback player of the year. He’s one sack away from making this the third-most productive season, sack-wise, of a career in which he has 81 1/2 sacks. It was suggested to him that he might be thinking he has more than a year or two left.
“Physically, sure,” he said. “The situation, who knows what’ll happen? When I’m on the field I give everything I have to the game. It’s always been that way, no matter the obstacle. I’m one of those to-the-death kind of guys.
“The light stops shining at some point, whether it’s my decision or otherwise. So how much more time do I have? I don’t know.”
He knows he has this weekend. He knows he has next weekend.
For now, that’s enough.
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