Miami's Wake makes Pro Bowl and could be playoff-bound

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Cameron Wake is headed for the Pro Bowl again, validating his improbable career comeback at age 34. With a surgically repaired Achilles tendon, he's eager to take the next step - into the playoffs.

Wake has been in the NFL for eight seasons, all with the Miami Dolphins, and this is the first year he has played on a winning team. If Miami (9-5) wins Saturday at Buffalo , and if Denver loses Sunday at Kansas City, Wake is in the postseason for the first time.

How sweet would that be? He won't say.

''We'll see when it happens,'' Wake said. ''But right now, I'm thinking of one task. That's Saturday - the Buffalo Bills. Whatever happens after that, we'll talk about that, if and when it happens.''

But anyone who knows Wake appreciates what a playoff berth would mean to the Dolphins' defensive end.

''Since the first day I met him, all he has talked about is wanting to win,'' first-year coach Adam Gase said.

Wake's drive seemed to redouble after he tore his left Achilles tendon in Game 7 last year. Given his age, there were fears his career might be over, but he chafed at the notion, and instead tackled months of rehab.

He played in only one preseason game, and the Dolphins limited his snaps early in the season. But by October it was clear Wake had fully recovered, and this week he was chosen for the Pro Bowl for the fifth time.

''Aside from the first one, this one is probably the most meaningful, especially because of the situation that happened with last year being cut short and having to work tremendously hard all the way from last December until now,'' Wake said. ''To be able to be back on the field and help my team win, it means a lot to me. It shows all the hard work, the late nights, all the pain and suffering were worthwhile.''

Wake has 10+ sacks, making him the only player with at least seven in each of the past seven seasons. His 80+ career sacks rank second in Miami to Jason Taylor, and he ranks second in the NFL to DeMarcus Ware since 2009.

His nine forced fumbles since 2015 lead the league, and that's despite missing nine games last season and ramping up slowly in 2016.

''He didn't make his first start until Week 5, but he has had a great year,'' defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. ''He has had 4+ sacks called back. With those, he would be the leader in the NFL.''

And Wake's sacks aren't empty; they tend to be pivotal. Last week, the Jets led 7-0 and were threatening when Wake and Pro Bowl tackle Ndamukong Suh turned Bryce Petty into a sack sandwich, jarring the ball loose.

''That's too bad for the quarterback,'' Joseph said.

Wake was credited with a strip sack, Suh recovered the fumble and the Dolphins went on to win 34-13.

Wake also wins praise for his willingness to come off the bench early in the season, when coaches were concerned he wasn't ready for every-down duties. He wanted to start but didn't complain about being limited to passing situations.

''If rookies are coming in, and they're seeing a guy like that who has been to Pro Bowls not afraid to take a lesser role, that really helps the entire team,'' special teams coach Darren Rizzi said. ''He's a great example.''

As the season progressed, Wake went from a role player to a leading role, improving with age. In January he'll be 35 - and perhaps, finally, a playoff participant.

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Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve-Wine. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/steven-wine

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