Cameron Wake says Pro Bowl should continue
DAVIE, Fla. — There’s one possession Cameron Wake never goes anywhere without.
It sits in his locker at Miami’s training facility during practice days and makes the trip to Sun Life Stadium when the Dolphins play home games. When the Dolphins are on the road, the prized item travels with the star defensive end.
With the Pro Bowl rosters to be announced Wednesday, Wake has a pretty good idea where it will be in a month.
“I’ll take my chip with me to Hawaii, and my chip is going to sit on the beach with me, and we’ll remember all the times we’ve had,’’ Wake said.
The chip is just that. It’s a pocket-sized wood chip that weighs several ounces.
Wake takes it everywhere as a reminder he has a chip on his shoulder. That comes from having been undrafted in 2005 out of Penn State and not making the NFL until Miami signed him in 2009 after he had played two years in Canada.
Wake’s motivation has led to him to getting 15 sacks this year, making it 43 in four NFL seasons. He’s expected to be named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster for the second time in three years for the Jan. 27 game in Honolulu.
But Wake doesn’t want this to be the last Pro Bowl in which he actually gets to step on a field. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, disappointed in the effort he believes has been displayed, has openly talked about continuing to name a Pro Bowl squad but not playing the game after this season.
“I don’t want that at all,’’ Wake said. “I’m 100 percent against that.’’
Yes, Wake knows the game doesn’t have great meaning and players have concern about getting hurt. But Wake believes a player making a trip to Hawaii and stepping on the field at Aloha Stadium is the proper way to acknowledge an impressive season.
“It’s a major honor, because you’re voted in by your peers, players, coaching staff, people who know football,’’ Wake said of Pro Bowl vote, which has one-third each going to players, coaches and fans. “To be considered at your position is amazing …. When you’re in Hawaii, you’re there representing the AFC, you’re representing your teammates.’’
Wake doesn’t believe it would be the same if a Pro Bowl team is announced and no game is played. And two Miami teammates who have been to Pro Bowls agree.
Defensive tackle Paul Soliai, who played in last season’s game, doesn’t want the game to be canceled. Neither does long snapper John Denney, who was Wake’s Pro Bowl teammate two years ago.
Goodell was exasperated at what he believed was a lack of effort in last season’s game, won 59-41 by the AFC. He has said the game, which is played the week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, needs to be “more competitive’’ and that he’s leaning toward cancelling it.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers both questioned the game’s intensity. Rodgers went so far as to say some players “didn’t put any effort into it.’’
“It was kind of slow, but that’s how it always has been,’’ said Soliai, who was named as an alternate after players who earned Super Bowl berths were replaced, of last January’s game. “You tell me one Pro Bowler that went hard the whole game …. But I didn’t think it was an embarrassment. It was fun. I think they should keep it. [Players who make the game] expect the vacation for their families. I can’t say it is a real game. But you’re representing the Dolphins. It was something that I always dreamed of being in.’’
The game two years ago, won 55-41 by the NFC, did not elicit as much criticism. Wake didn’t believe it was a bad display.
“I don’t think anybody is out there cut blocking and trying to kill each other, but I thought guys were working their butts off,’’ Wake said. “I don’t think there was a problem of competitiveness. You know part of it is fun and entertainment, but it’s an honor to be [in Hawaii for it].’’
Wake, fourth in the NFL in sacks, has the best chance of any Miami player to get a Pro Bowl nod Wednesday. Other candidates include center Mike Pouncey, safety Reshad Jones, punter Brandon Fields and linebacker Karlos Dansby.
If Denney is to make another trip, he won’t find out for a few weeks. The long snappers will be chosen by the coaches of the teams, who will be named in January.
“A lot of guys look forward to it, and [going to Hawaii] is part of being selected,’’ Denney said of wanting to keep the game. “You’ve got to try to find some middle ground to find some incentive to make the game a little more competitive.’’
Denney suggested raising the money players now get, which is $50,000 for winners and $25,000 for losers. He also wondered if some assurances could be made to protect players who might get injured.
“You’ve got the risk-reward factor,’’ Denney said. “Guys are putting their bodies out there on the line and there is a chance they are going to get hurt and end their careers …. So maybe they could throw in some guarantees like that, if you’re still under contract, your future salary is guaranteed.’’
As for Wake, he doesn’t claim to need any extra incentive. He’s vowing to play hard if he’s on the field Jan. 27 at Aloha Stadium.
“It’s all part of where I came from,’’ Wake said.
If Wake needs any reminding, all he has to do to look at his chip, which also soon should be making a second trip to Hawaii.