DAVIE — Before Cameron Wake starting running around offensive tackles and overpowering running backs and torpedoing himself through quarterbacks last season, he was, well, on the bench a lot.
The Miami Dolphins had a plan and that plan was to ease the wily veteran into the lineup and conserve his body for the most important snaps. There was medical research and some coaching input on the decision, which seemed to make some sense.
But then the Dolphins started the season slowly. And they started games slowly. And Wake wasn’t on the field enough or at the right moments (before the Dolphins got in major holes) to make the kind of Pro Bowl impact he’s capable of.
So, then first-year coach Adam Gase made a change. He played Wake more. He played him more and he played him earlier. And Wake and Andre Branch, also inserted as a starter, started to dominate games.
And credit to Gase, as he almost always does, he admitted he was wrong.
On Wednesday, as Miami’s minicamp grew nearer to close, Gase said he flat-out got it wrong.
“You’re trying to throw the first five games in my face there?” Gase said. “I mean, I made a mistake. I should have been playing him more early. We were trying to think long-term and think let’s get him in the most important snaps during games. And when you’re getting down, it puts us in a bad spot because we didn’t want to stick him out there and all they’re doing is pounding the football. You know we wanted him in there when teams were passing it. We just kept getting behind. And that was putting us at a disadvantage. And that’s when we decided we just have to make sure he’s out there more. So that’s kind of why we made that switch. We thought we were being smart. And it really kind of backfired on us. What we should have done is just let him play.”
And this is all part of what endears Gase to his players.
He doesn’t stonewall. He doesn’t evade. He doesn’t dodge.
The word “TRUTH” is on the wall at the Dolphins facility, and Gase delivers it.
Could Wake, now 35, have handled playing more early last season?
Of course, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh agreed Wednesday.
“I think at the end of the day what they wanted to do was ease Cam back in to his progression of playing at a high level,” Suh said. “At the end of the day I think they did a great job handling that. It’s proven in the pudding of what Cam produced. Obviously we could have done it earlier it could have been probably better but that’s in the past. And I think the future is where we’re at.”
What Suh loves is how Gase addressed the circumstance head on. He was even standing in the corner of a meeting room, waiting for his turn to speak with the media, as Gase wrapped up his session.
“I think coach is very accountability -oriented, for himself and his players and everybody in this building,” Suh said. “And that’s something that’s great because he doesn’t put himself on a pedestal to say, ‘everything I say is perfect.’ And we’ve had some great conversations this offseason even when I wasn’t here of that nature about how he can get better and we can get better as a team. He’s a great head coach and he’s only going to get better because he has that mentality.”
Veteran offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod, who also played for Gase in Chicago, said Gase is all about identifying and correct mistakes, those made by anybody.
“(Gase is) always going to shoot you straight,” Bushrod said. “He’s always going to tell you how he feels about every situation that we’ve been in – good or bad – or how he could have been better and how we could have been better. That just makes us evaluate ourselves that much tougher, that much harder. So when your head coach can take accountability like that, then it’s just a trickle-down effect. We’re professionals and that’s just how it needs to be so you can fight to win.”
Gase said Wake, who has yet to speak with reporters following any of the 12 previous offseason organized team activities or mini-camp practices, sets a fine example on how to take care of his body and help facilitate career longevity.
In particular, Gase noted Wake is a fine role model for defensive end Andre Branch.
“We happen to have the guy that probably is the poster boy for doing it right,” Gase said. “For a long period of time. And making everyone else feel like he’s 38 and he looks like he’s 26. And (Wake) goes harder and longer than most of the players that we have that are 25, 24. (Branch) saw every day that if you do it right you can play for a very long time in this league.”
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