NASHVILLE – This time last year, veteran defensive end Cameron Wake was in Miami, getting ready for the season opener against the Titans.
Today, he's a Titan, preparing for the 2019 season.
Ten seasons into his NFL career, Wake is adjusting to a new city, a new team, new teammates, and new coaches. After signing as a free agent in March, it's been so far, so good.
"I've definitely enjoyed it," Wake said. "Breath of fresh air. I think it was time, obviously. So, being around not only players, the city, I've gotten the chance to kind of go out and spend some time around town, the people, the fans – been nothing but warm wishes, a lot of healthy welcomes. I've definitely enjoyed it, not only just in this building, but the city as a whole."
Wake downplayed putting on a different helmet and uniform when the Titans kicked off OTAs at the start of this week. The team will be back on the field for OTA No.3 on Thursday.
"Just a different color, that's all," Wake said with a smile. "Same number (91), same guy doing in essence the same thing. Ball is ball, as they say. It's just wearing a different color in a different city."
Wake, 37, has played ball very well during his career. He posted double-digit sack totals in five of his 10 NFL seasons in Miami, including a 10.5-sack season in 2017. Wake recorded six sacks in 2018 while playing limited snaps. He recorded 360 total tackles, one interception, and 22 forced fumbles in addition to his 98 sacks during his time with the Dolphins. Wake's 98 sacks are the second-most ever by a player in a Dolphins uniform, behind only Jason Taylor.
Wake (6-3, 263) played in 146 games with 125 starts with the Dolphins. He's a five-time Pro Bowl selection (2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016) and a four-time Associated Press All-Pro (first team 2010 and 2012; second team 2014 and 2016).
Now he's learning a new defense in Tennessee, led by defensive coordinator Dean Pees.
"Bit of a learning curve, a little different than what I'm used to," Wake said. "I think when you look at the big picture, all the players, all the pieces are put in position to make plays. You've got the fast guys where fast guys need to be, the big, strong guys where they need to be, and he puts everybody in position to help the team out as a whole. When your number is called, sort to speak, you get to have kind of the whole team behind you. But, you have to make that play and we all hold each other accountable, so that's a lot of fun as well."
Already this offseason, some of Wake's younger teammates have praised him for his leadership, from linebackers Rashaan Evans to Jayon Brown to Sharif Finch.
During Tuesday's OTA, his leadership was on full display as he worked with some of the rookies during a break in the action.
In Miami, Wake was twice named the winner of the Don Shula Leadership Award, and he was the 2016 recipient of the Dolphins Ed Block Courage Award after he tore his Achilles' tendon midseason in 2015.
He said he's more than willing to help those around him, even if it's being a leader by example. Wake knows they're watching, because he's always done so himself.
"I've always been a guy who takes a lot of pride in my craft and what I do," Wake said. "I've always been a guy to look around and see other guys who I respect in this league, or other teams, wherever it is. You obviously look and see some of the things that you can maybe pick and choose, and take from their game. I think any player or any guy who is serious about what they do, they're going to do the same.
"I think on this team we have a lot of guys who are serious about what they do, so I wouldn't expect anything less. Again, since I am serious, I don't have to – it's not a show, it's not an act. It's just you do what you've been doing. It's obviously allowed me to play here in this league for a long time, and if I can continue to do the same I think that should continue, and hopefully I can help out some of the guys that are on that same journey."
The Titans signed Wake, of course, to get after the quarterback.
A season after Jurrell Casey led the team with seven sacks, the team is looking to get more pressure from the outside. In addition to Wake, outside linebackers Harold Landry, Kamalei Correa, Finch and fifth-round pick D'Andre Walker will be in the mix to make things happen.
Wake wants to keep on keeping on.
Wake's six sacks in 2018 came despite playing less than 50 percent of the team's defensive snaps. Since 2006, Wake has posted the second highest pressure percentage (16.7 %) in the NFL, behind only Von Miller (17.1), according to Pro Football Focus. Wake generated 54 pressures on 313 pass rushes in 2018, per PFF. On 517 defensive snaps last season, Wake recorded an overall grade of 81.6 and was among the league's most productive pass rushers, per PFF.
"I'm confident that as it stands now, we're putting in the work," said Wake, who tallied 36 tackles, 17 quarterback hits, six sacks, five tackles for loss, and a pass deflection in addition to his six sacks in his 14 starts in 2018.
"I'll let you guys (do) predictions and all the crystal balls, but we're just out here working every day. I think that's the main focus, is wherever you are in your journey – some guys are here, some guys are there – wherever that is, improve. If you do that, then you're going to help the team as a whole. What's going to happen? The proof is in the pudding. We'll worry about that when the real bullets get flying. For now … everybody is putting in the work to make sure that when they do snap that first ball we'll be ready."
New Titans defensive end Cameron Wake works out with teammates during the first week of the team's offseason program at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)
TitansOnline.com looks back at the NFL career of former Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake, who signed with the Titans as an unrestricted free agent. (AP Photos)