Frank Gore will be 35, but here’s why Miami Dolphins don’t really care

Ex-Hurricane Frank Gore, then with the Indianapolis Colts, runs against the Dolphins. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2018.)

RB Frank Gore

Height, weight: 5-9, 212

College: Miami

Age: Will be 35 at the start of the season

Experience: Entering 14th season, first with the Dolphins

Acquired: As a free agent from Indianapolis

Contract: Due to earn $1.1 million this season

Pro Football Focus rank: 17th out of 58

In 2017

Stats: Rushing — 961 yards, 3.7 average, 3 TDs. Receiving — 29 catches, 245 yards, 1 TD

Notable moments: Carried 36 times for 130 yards at Buffalo. It was the most carries ever by a running back 34 or older

Straight talk: With Damien Williams leaving and Kenyan Drake still arriving in terms of the big stage, the Dolphins made a wise move in bringing Frank Gore back to Miami.

Gore will be 35 this season, but it was predictable that coach Adam Gase warned against getting too caught up in that, of course.

“It’s irrelevant,” Gase said. “He’s a different dude.”

Don’t believe it? Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star, in a column criticizing the Colts for letting Gore walk, revealed that in that game in Buffalo in which Gore had 130 yards, he broke a thumb. The Colts suggested season-ending surgery to insert a pin.

“I’m a football player,” Gore said. “I’m playing.”

Indianapolis’ next game was a Thursday nighter against the Broncos, so four days later, Gore was at it again, accounting for 67 yards from scrimmage. It’s that kind of drive that has allowed him to play 112 consecutive games, most by any active running back.

By keeping in terrific shape, Gore has managed 12 straight seasons with at least 1,200 yards from scrimmage. The only backs with more carries than his 3,226 are Emmitt Smith (all-time leader at 4,409), Walter Payton, Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis. None has a better per-carry average than Gore’s 4.4.

With his stocky build and powerful legs, Gore has been an effective inside runner. He tied for 10th in the league last year with 49 carries for first downs, so perhaps third-and-1 will cease to be an automatic passing play. Not to mention that when Ryan Tannehill does throw with Gore in the game, not only can Gore catch, he’s exceptional at pass protection. 

Gase and Gore were together in 2008, when Gase served as an offensive assistant on the 49ers.

“It’s been 10 years since we were together,” Gase said. “I mean it seems like forever. The guy looks exactly the same.”

Prospects for 2018

While the Dolphins are counting on Drake to be the featured back, Gore isn’t being brought in strictly as an aging mentor to the young guy.

“We’ll figure it out,” Gase said of the workload. “This is no different than what we were kind of doing with Damien and Kenyan last year. I mean it’s a long season. We got caught in a couple of situations last year where Kenyan was the only guy we had and he had to take the majority of the carries. Really, that’s not what we want over a 16-game season. That’s going to be tough. We’ll make sure that we spread this thing out well. We’ll use both of those guys the right way.”

***

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Big bucks, big decision, big year for Miami Dolphins RT Ja’Wuan James

Ja’Wuan James (right) plays a key role in protecting Ryan Tannehill. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2018.)

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs in Davie]

RT Ja’Wuan James

Height, weight: 6-6, 312

College: Tennessee

Age: 26

Experience: Fifth NFL season, all with Dolphins

Acquired: First-round pick in 2014

Contract: Was given fifth-year option by Dolphins, meaning he’ll earn $9.34 million this season

Pro Football Focus rank: tied for 17th out of 81

In 2017

Stats: Started eight games, then was placed on injured reserve Nov. 11 with a hamstring injury

Straight talk: When you think of Dolphins on the hot seat this year, names such as DeVante Parker come to mind.

But what about James?

After taking their time to think it over, the Dolphins granted James a fifth-year option even though it cost them $9.34 million and made him the highest-paid right tackle in the league.

In fact, James will make more in 2018 than all but 16 left tackles. And he’s the sixth-highest-paid player on this team.

Much of the focus has been on Parker’s inability to justify being taken in the first round. Less glare has been on James, the first-rounder one year earlier. It’s the nature of the positions, right tackle vs. receiver.

For what it’s worth — and I’m guarded in how much stock I put in Pro Football Focus rankings — James was rated as the 10th-best offensive tackle last season and fifth-best pass blocker.

Late last season, coach Adam Gase said he needed time to evaluate things before committing to bringing back James.

“We looked through all our options,” Gase said once the decision was reached.

Among the discussions, the Dolphins stressed the need for James to be more consistent. James got the message as he worked this spring with new line coach Jeremiah Washburn.

“Just using my technique every time,” he said. “That’s the hardest part, just doing the same thing, every time. No matter who you’re going against. Silent count. Whatever it is.”

Prospects for 2018

James’ performance will be vital toward protecting Ryan Tannehill and his surgically repaired right knee.

But first James has to stay healthy.

He has missed 17 of 64 games in his career, including nine games missed in 2015 because of a toe injury. This spring, James gave mixed signals as to how he was healing.

“I feel like I’m past it,” he said at one point.

But at other times, he sounded as if the hamstring still wasn’t where it needs to be. Example: “I’m focused on this hamstring and getting myself to 100 percent.”

There’s still time until training camp. Let’s see what August brings. 

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When you’re hot: Xavien Howard trending straight up for Miami Dolphins’ secondary

Xavien Howard makes an interception against the Patriots. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2018.)

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs in Davie]

CB Xavien Howard

Height, weight: 6-1, 196

College: Baylor

Age: Will be 25 this season

Experience: Third season, all with Dolphins

Acquired: Second-round pick in 2016

Contract: In third year of his $6.1 million rookie contract

Pro Football Focus rank: 92nd of 121

In 2017

Stats: Started every game; 48 tackles, one sack, four interceptions, 13 passes defensed

Notable moments: INTs came in bunches, with two vs. Broncos and two in the home game vs. Patriots

Straight talk: Can momentum that a young player has going for him late one season carry over into the next season?

The Dolphins certainly hope so.

Howard didn’t get off to the best of starts last year but displayed a key trait for a cornerback — he forgot about all that — to put up some stunning performances as the weather turned cold.

Howard recorded the first two interceptions of his career against Denver, then followed with two more against Tom Brady and the Patriots, which was even more impressive in two ways:

1. He’s the first Dolphin with multiple interceptions in consecutive games.

2. He played the Patriots game while puking his guts out on the sideline because of the flu. “I thought he was going to die,” said safety Walt Aikens, who should know because, in his words, “I was in the splash zone.”

Howard, who earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for the Patriots game, said he realized it was time to start trusting himself and taking chances when opportunities arose.

“Not thinking,” said Howard, who relied on strength and his closing ability with the ball in the air to pick off Brady. “Just going out there and playing.”

“You could tell him that I said it’s about time,” Cameron Wake said.

Of course, 1 1/2 seasons isn’t a long time for a cornerback to develop (not to mention that Howard missed half his rookie year with knee problems). While double-digit interceptions is a bit much to ask of anybody in Year 3, continued growth is realistic for Howard and if that happens, a healthy second contract will start to come into focus.

“The more he plays, the longer he plays, the tighter the coverage is going to get … the faster he’ll get as far as being able to break up some of these passes,” coach Adam Gase said. “Guys get so frustrated with young corners or the kid themselves gets down on themselves because balls are completed on them. They get better with time if you stick with them and you don’t allow their confidence to waver.”

Prospects for 2018

Howard’s confidence should be at an all-time high entering the season.

Any concerns the Dolphins may have had over his extended absence in 2016 should have been erased by what he did against New England. Keep in mind, he required two bags of IV fluids and was drinking Pedialyte but still suited up and played extremely well, worthy of the Michael Jordan seal of approval.

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

Speedy, versatile receiver Albert Wilson brings intrigue to Miami Dolphins’ offense

Dolphins receiver Albert Wilson during organized team activities. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2018.)

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs in Davie]

WR Albert Wilson

Height, weight: 5-9, 200

College: Georgia State

Age: Will be 26 this season

Experience: Entering fifth season, first with Dolphins

Acquired: Signed as unrestricted free agent from Chiefs in March

Contract: In first year of a three-year, $24 million contract

Pro Football Focus rank: 33rd of 116

In 2017

Stats: Started seven of 13 games in which he appeared; had career highs of 42 receptions for 554 yards and three TDs

New Dolphins receiver Albert Wilson. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Notable moments: Caught 63-yard TD pass vs. Raiders. … Caught 10 passes for 147 yards vs. Broncos for his first 100-yard game.

Straight talk: One of the more intriguing Dolphins acquisitions is Wilson, who gives the offense four players who have been timed at 4.45 or better (along with WRs Jakeem Grant and Kenny Stills and RB Kenyan Drake).

It will be up to coach Adam Gase, who loves to create mismatches, to maximize both the breakaway speed and versatility of these players.

Although Wilson grew up in our midst, attending Port St. Lucie High, what he brings to this mix is somewhat unknown. Is he the player who had just 279 receiving yards for Kansas City two years ago? The guy on the ascension after a 554-yard season last year? Or the one who reached his ceiling simply because it was a contract year?

Wilson can assume some of the Jarvis Landry duties, catching short passes from Ryan Tannehill and letting his yards-after-catch ability take over.

“He’s a guy that can take a throw behind the line of scrimmage and he can create a 70-yard touchdown,” Gase said.

Johnson said he was impressed by how quickly Wilson picked up Miami’s system when “he wasn’t really doing the same thing in Kansas City.”

Wilson had only three rushing attempts for 6 yards last season. That’s about to change.

“His speed is hard to ignore,” Gase said. “We saw first-hand how fast he is and what he can do, how he can stretch the field vertically. When you put the ball in his hands, he makes plays. I don’t think I’ve seen too many wide receivers where a team is actually handing the ball off to him and he’s running between the tackles.”

Prospects for 2018

If the spring is any indication, Wilson should make a seamless transition to Miami and be a nice complementary piece alongside the aforementioned receivers plus Danny Amendola and DeVante Parker. Doubly so, if defenses overcommit to any of the others when Gase throws a four-receiver set on the field.

During the spring, receivers coach Ben Johnson pointed out the versatility Wilson provides.

“It’s really triggered us to say he’s not limited in the slot, he’s not limited outside,” Johnson said. “He can line up in the backfield. He can do so many different things for us. His versatility is really, really showing up.”

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Miami Dolphins’ special teams are now Walt Aikens’ show

Dolphins DB Walt Aikens celebrates after scoring a defensive two-point conversion on a blocked extra-point attempt by Arizona kicker Chandler Catanzaro in 2016. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2018.)

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs in Davie]

DB Walt Aikens

Height, weight: 6-1, 212

College: Liberty

Age: 27 when season starts

Experience: Entering fifth season, all with the Dolphins

Acquired: Fourth-round draft pick in 2014

Contract: Re-signed to a two-year contract worth $2.7 million

Pro Football Focus rank: None

In 2017

Stats: Made seven tackles on special teams; downed five punts inside the 20-yard line

Notable moments: Had two special teams tackles and forced a fumble on a punt return at New England. The fumble was by Danny Amendola, who’s now a Dolphin, but the Patriots recovered.

Straight talk: The Dolphins say when they sliced up their salary cap, they quickly determined they could retain Walt Aikens or Michael Thomas but not both players who contributed heavily to their success on special teams the past few years.

By choosing Aikens, they went with a player a year younger and $1.3 million cheaper over the next two years.

By not choosing Thomas, they let go to the Giants the Pro Football Focus special teams player of the year, who twice contended for the AFC special teams Pro Bowl slot.

So now it’s Aikens’ show, with every indication that he’ll be named successor to Thomas as special teams captain.

“I think Walt is a guy that we’re going to see really step up in a leadership role this year,” coach Adam Gase said. “I don’t know if anybody can really replace Mike as far as his leadership goes and his ability to make plays was outstanding. He’s a tackling machine.”

There shouldn’t be much doubt what the athletic Aikens can do as well. He caught fire late in the 2016 season, blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown and scoring a defensive two-point conversion on a blocked extra point.

Prospects for 2018

Aikens will need to be a leader on Darren Rizzi’s revamped special teams units. He seldom gets on the field on defense, which may continue to be the case in 2018.

Aikens has often worked at safety but admitted last year he was happy to be told he was moving to cornerback, his college position.

The Dolphins currently list him at both positions, but where his focus will be is murky because of all the changes in the secondary. In addition to the first-round pick being spent on S Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins get CB Tony Lippett back from an Achilles injury and will tinker with S T.J. McDonald at LB or as a hybrid player.

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

All grown up, Kenyan Drake primed to ‘bust out’ for Miami Dolphins in 2018

Kenyan Drake could be the Dolphins’ best hope for a breakout season in 2018. (Getty Images)

(Note: Today begins our summer-long series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting key members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2018. We begin with a vital part of the offense who I think will have a big year, running back Kenyan Drake. — Hal)

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs in Davie]

RB Kenyan Drake

Height, weight: 6-1, 211

College: Alabama

Age: 24

Experience: Third NFL season, all with Dolphins

Acquired: Third-round pick in 2016

Contract: In third year of four-year, $3.3 million rookie contract

In 2017

Stats: Started six of 16 games; had 133 carries for 644 yards (4.8 average) and three TDs; also caught 32 passes for 239 yards and 1 TD

Notable moments: Ran 66 yards for TD vs. Panthers. … Had 120 yards vs. Broncos. … In home victory over Patriots had 114 yards rushing and 79 receiving.

Straight talk: Adam Gase probably meant it. Then again, maybe he was just trying to light a fire. Either way, while talking about Drake this spring, Gase said he was “a guy that’s really looking to bust out.”

If the Dolphins are going to improve over last year’s 6-10 record, it’s a must.

Drake knows it, too. You can tell by the way he’s carrying himself compared to when he arrived as a luxury third-rounder, a guy behind Jay Ajayi and Damien Williams on the depth chart whose primary contributions were going to come on special teams.

Now?

“Honestly, it was just about growing up one day,” Drake said. “Everybody has to take that step necessary to be the man that they want to be. Obviously, I’m nowhere near where I want to be, obviously, as a man, as a football player, because I feel like the sky’s the limit for me and for this team in general.”

Gase once half-jokingly said there were times he wanted to hurt a young Kenyan Drake, who might take a handful of steps forward and then “test me.” Thankfully, a couple of years of growth, added responsibility and the arrival of one of the true professionals in this sport, Frank Gore, give the Dolphins a wise choice as one of the NFL players primed for a breakout year.

“I think he’s matured a lot, whether it be (with) the playbook or just him personally,” Gase said. “When you’re in this league, after you get through that first year, in the second year sometimes there’s a little bit of a feeling-out process. You’re trying to figure out who you are.

“You’re starting to get older and you really realize this is a job and it’s different than college. I see a different guy in the way he prepares (and) knowing the situation he’s coming into this year. It’s been a good process to watch his maturity level on and off the field.”

Drake is fully aware of the big picture, acknowledging there are “people looking up to me.” Given his obvious physical gifts — speed and elusiveness chief among them — he’s in perfect position to stake his claim toward a handsome second contract with a solid 2018.

Prospects for 2018

Over the final five games, he rushed for a league-best 444 yards and averaged 4.9 per carry. He also had 150 receiving yards.

For what it’s worth, that projects to roughly 2,000 all-purpose yards.

Don’t underestimate the arrival of Gore, who might see more action than fans expect despite Drake being the featured guy. That actually should be beneficial for Drake — just picture him, with his quickness, being fresh in the fourth quarter as visiting teams are wilting at Hard Rock Stadium.

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Miami Dolphins to gather for training camp earlier than most NFL teams

The third week of July should mark Dolphins fans’ first look at top draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

The Dolphins think they need a lot of work.

The NFL released reporting dates for training camp Thursday, which revealed that  the Dolphins’ rookies are scheduled to arrive in Davie on July 18 and veterans July 25.

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs in Davie]

Only the Baltimore Ravens (July 11) and Chicago Bears (July 16) are gathering earlier. And only the Jacksonville Jaguars and New Orleans Saints also are reporting as early as July 18.

The Ravens and Bears play in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 2 to open the preseason, which explains their choice of dates.

At the other extreme, the Los Angeles Chargers won’t gather until July 27.

The Dolphins, who were 6-10 last season, will get a jump on their AFC East rivals. The New England Patriots begin reporting July 22, the New York Jets on July 24 and the Buffalo Bills on July 25.

The Dolphins open the preseason Aug. 9 at home against Tampa Bay, whose rookies won’t report until July 23 and veterans July 25.

[Former Dolphin Chuck Klingbeil dies at age 52]

[TE Mike Gesicki signs to complete negotiations with draft picks]

[Cameron Wake describes what it takes to be successful]

[Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil moves past ‘horrible taste’ of last season, poised for comeback]

[Who wins a race between Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant and Kenny Stills?]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

Ex-Miami Dolphins NT Chuck Klingbeil, hero of Shula’s 300th win, dead at 52

Dolphins nose tackle Chuck Klingbeil celebrates during the 1991 victory over Green Bay in which he scored an unlikely touchdown to help give Don Shula his 300th victory. (Jim Spoonts /Allsport)

The name Chuck Klingbeil might not mean much to younger fans today, but the former nose tackle has a secure place in Dolphins lore for an improbable starring role in Don Shula’s 300th career victory, in 1991.

Klingbeil, who spent his entire five-year NFL career with the Dolphins ending in 1995, has died of unknown causes. He was 52.

Longtime fans will recall Klingbeil as the hero of a 16-13 victory over Green Bay on Sept. 22, 1991, when he fell on a fumble by quarterback Don Majkowski in the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that eventually gave the Dolphins license to give Shula his first (and only?) Gatorade bath in celebration of his milestone.

“What were the odds of all that, of me scoring? A million to one?” Klingbeil asked after the game, although he evidently thought his odds were no worse than even. Before the game, for no apparent reason, he told fellow nose tackle Brian Sochia he was going to score a touchdown.

“I was just joking around,” Klingbeil said. “But I did say it. That’s weird, isn’t it?”

Long before anyone heard of Cameron Wake, Klingbeil was a star plucked by the Dolphins out of the Canadian Football League. The season prior, he helped the Saskatchewan Roughriders win the Grey Cup by earning MVP honors in the championship game.

Klingbeil went on to start 65 of the 78 games he played for Miami, making 242 tackles and recording 7.5 sacks.

Injuries pressed him into duty against the Packers on an afternoon so hot and humid that the weather helped gift the Dolphins a win.

The strange sequence was set up by a 54-yard punt by Reggie Roby that went out of bounds on the Green Bay 2. With no one near him, Majkowski cocked his arm back to pass.

“But the ball didn’t go back with him,” Klingbeil said. “It stayed right where it started. When his hand moved, the ball just hit the ground, like a great big Christmas present.”

Majkowski was so sweaty, “The ball just slipped out of my hand,” he said.

Klingbeil cradled it like a baby as officials’ arms shot straight upward. Scared he’d be penalized, Klingbeil didn’t dare spike the ball.

The play kick-started the sluggish Dolphins and Dan Marino, who had heard boos earlier. A 40-yard pass from Marino to Mark Duper set up the winning 31-yard field goal by Pete Stoyanovich.

Although Klingbeil’s time in Miami eventually ended because of a shoulder injury, he remained a powerlifter who could squat 700 pounds. His hopes of a comeback ended when he was rushed to the ER one night and diagnosed with a hole torn in his esophagus. He became an assistant coach at Michigan Tech.

Even on the day of his career highlight, Klingbeil could sense he’d accomplished something with a lasting impact.

“Being Coach Shula’s 300th win, that makes it even sweeter,” Klingbeil said. “It’s exciting to be a part of history.”

[TE Mike Gesicki signs to complete negotiations with draft picks]

[Cameron Wake describes what it takes to be successful]

[Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil moves past ‘horrible taste’ of last season, poised for comeback]

[Who wins a race between Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant and Kenny Stills?]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

All Miami Dolphins draft picks are signed: TE Mike Gesicki gets 4-year deal

Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki signed Monday to complete negotiations for this year’s draft class for Miami. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The Dolphins just wrapped up offseason workouts and scattered for some R&R, but they’re also primed to get down to business.

They signed second-round pick Mike Gesicki, a tight end, Monday, meaning all eight of their 2018 draft picks are signed and set for the start of training camp late this summer.

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs in Davie]

Gesicki’s four-year deal is worth approximately $6.6 million.

Gesicki, from Penn State, was acquired to give Ryan Tannehill the downfield threat at tight end the Dolphins have lacked. He caught 129 passes for 1,481 yards and 15 touchdowns in three seasons as the Nittany Lions’ starting tight end and is a physical presence for secondaries at 6-feet-6 and 250 pounds.

“He’s aggressive to the ball and he can make plays,” coach Adam Gase said. “He’s a big man that can run and has really good hands. It’s been fun to watch him kind of develop and trying to learn this offense. He puts a lot of time into it. He’s trying to be one of those guys that can play fast.”

Gesicki said he and fellow rookie Durham Smythe, who were hotel roommates during the offseason program, spent many nights quizzing each other about the playbook. He said his primary concern was having coaches and teammates think of him as a player who “knows his role, his assignment and I want him on the field. I want him to make a play for us.”

[Cameron Wake describes what it takes to be successful]

[Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil moves past ‘horrible taste’ of last season, poised for comeback]

[Who wins a race between Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant and Kenny Stills?]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.

Miami Dolphins DE Cameron Wake explains what it takes to be elite

Cameron Wake knows as well as anyone what it takes to enjoy a long NFL career. (Getty Images)

DAVIE — Cameron Wake is used to being asked the same questions about how he has stunningly maintained his physique at age 36 and given the Dolphins two straight double-digit sack seasons this late in his career.

He gets it everywhere. Young players in Miami’s locker room want to know how they can get there. He’s the most recognizable Dolphins player in public. The media is always curious.

[RELATED: Don’t miss our exclusive photos from Dolphins OTAs in Davie]

But the one question he’s tired of is when people want to know whether he ever takes a cheat day. Not only is that an indulgence he doesn’t take part in, he’s past the point of even wanting it.

“It’s a lifestyle,” he said this week. “I’ve decided many years ago that this is going to be my life if I want to be successful. To me, every week off that I’m taking is a week that some other guy is not, or a week that I’m stepping back or a sack that I’m going to miss or a play that I’m not going to get. It all comes down to what it’s worth.

“If I told a rookie, ‘Listen, if you never drink a drink of alcohol throughout your entire career, you’ll have 15 more sacks for the years you’re playing. Is that worth it to you?’ Some guys say yes; some guys say no. ‘Never have fried food for your 10 years and you’ll make X more money.’ Some guys say yes, some guys say no.

“To me, even if it’s one sack, one play, it’s worth it. Because 10 years from now when I’m not playing, I can have all the cheeseburgers, all the beaches, all the everything, because I put the time in now to put myself in a position that I can have all those things. But if you try to do it the other way around, you won’t be in that position to even enjoy the stuff that you’re working towards… It’s 24/7. It’s just a lifestyle. It’s my life and it won’t change until I stop playing.”

Wake talked extensively this week after his final day of Organized Team Activities, and it was the first time he had spoken with the media since December.

A lot has changed around him since then, most notably the departure of Ndamukong Suh and the arrival of Robert Quinn, but Wake’s the same. He’s still incredibly fit, still set on being one of the league’s most feared pass rushers and looks poised for another big year.

Two seasons ago, coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon, Wake was shifted into a reduced role of coming in exclusively on passing downs. He quickly proved he was capable of much more, and coach Adam Gase restored him to full-time work. That paid off with 11.5 sacks, then Wake followed with another 10.5 last year.

There’s no reason to expect a drop off this season.

“I feel as good as I’ve ever felt,” Wake said. “As you get closer and closer to tapping out that battle with Father Time, I think you have to do whatever you can as far as the wisdom of the game. You maybe can’t physically work as hard, but you can definitely work smarter.

“There are more things I know now that I didn’t know when I was 25 years old, when I was out there running around with whatever God gave me. To be able to be as physically able as possible at 36, and still have that wisdom to put those two things together, I think you can still be successful. With a little bit of sacrifice, if it’s worth it, then I think the fruits of your labor will come to bear.”

That approach has served him well over his 10-year NFL career. Wake is a five-time Pro Bowl selection (all-pro in 2012) despite going undrafted and not making it into the league until he was 27. He is second in Dolphins history with 92 career sacks and could crack the NFL’s top 30 all-time by the end of this year.

If that’s somehow not convincing enough, consider that the upcoming season will push his career earnings to nearly $53 million.

As Wake alluded, a big part of the equation is preserving what he has left physically as much as he can. That’s why he’s so careful about what he eats and how he lives year-round.

He was asked specifically whether he calculates in the offseason whether one beer today might cost him a sack during the season, for example, and while he said beer isn’t a draw for him, he used it to illustrate his point.

“I said in 2005 that I’m not going to have beer, because it will make the days that come where it’s third-and-10 and (the opponent is) hurting or he’s tired or he didn’t recover — I know I have a step ahead of him no matter what it is. It could be one millisecond,” Wake said. “Even if it’s 10 years (of clean diet) for that one millisecond, that’s worth it for me… Beer is not going to change. Beer is going to taste the same in 10 years as it tastes tomorrow, yesterday. And that sack won’t. That opportunity won’t be there 10 years from now. So, I can get it now. I’ll have the beer later.”

He added, “Take it from me that whatever is pulling you on the outside of football — I don’t care if it’s the South Florida sun, fishing, golfing, girls, party — whatever that thing is, sacrifice now and put everything you can into this game, and it’ll reward you tenfold. A lot of guys who listen, you’ll hear their name someday. Some guys you won’t.”

Wake embraces the chance to share that wisdom with other players, particularly rookies like Charles Harris was last year, and he’s given this talk many times.

“This is not exclusive to me or to football or to anything — What is it worth to you?” Wake said. “Is one more sack worth five years of a clean diet? Some people are like, ‘That’s crazy. I love cheeseburgers.’ Some people would say, ‘Yes, I’ll do anything I can to have one more sack.’

“Like I said before, cheeseburgers aren’t going anywhere. Video games, women, partying — All of that stuff will be there, trust me. But you’re only going to have one Monday Night Football game. You’ll never get it again.

“I’ve had guys — veterans, rookies, people who work 9 to 5 — all come to me like, ‘You’re crazy.’ But I’ve also have people who’ve said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do whatever I can to make myself better.’ It’s a universal thing for anybody. What is it worth to you? Are you willing to pay the cost? Some are. Some aren’t.”

Wake had a unique answer when asked what motivates him to stay so disciplined. “Freedom is my ultimate goal,” he said. For him, the reward for everything he’s sacrificing while he’s in the NFL is the luxury of doing whatever he wants when he’s done.

Wake intends to walk away from this — not anytime soon, it seems — in position to live however he pleases. That will make it all worth it.

“Probably no different than most of the guys in here, whether it’s the newspaper business or football, you want to have freedom,” he said. “I want to say in 10 years I will be able to do whatever I want. If it’s skiing all year round in the Swiss Alps, I sacrificed so that I could do that. Or if it’s teaching boys and girls how to pass rush, I can make that choice.

“But like I said earlier, if I’ve been drinking beers for the last 10 years, I might have to go do something for the next 40 years. I couldn’t go skiing and drink beer all day and sit on the beach, whatever it may be. To me, freedom is happiness and that’s what my direction is.”

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