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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Don’t call Terence Newman old; leave that to his playful Vikings teammates

By Derek Wetmore

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Terence Newman is 38 years old and has started every game for one of the NFL’s top-echelon defenses.

While his defensive mates no doubt respect the latter, they’re also quick with a practical joke to remind him of the former.

Earlier this year, a group of defensive players that will remain nameless stuffed a pack of adult diapers in his locker and put a walker in front of it. The message was clear. He’s the elder statesman around these parts.

His message in return was clearer still: “If [the Vikings’ decision makers] didn’t think I could compete or do my job, I wouldn’t be here.”

Hear, hear.

Newman is in his 14th NFL season, a rare accomplishment on its own for a cornerback. Rarer still is the fact that eight of those seasons have been with Zimmer, playing for three different teams.

The first four of those years he was in Dallas defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s defense, before Zimmer moved on to the Atlanta Falcons and later the Cincinnati Bengals. In 2012-13, Newman reunited with Zimmer in The Jungle, playing two seasons in orange and black before Zimmer was tabbed as the head coach of the Vikings in 2013.

The very next year, he brought in Newman as a free agent, and three years later, he’s still holding down a starter’s job – a testament to the veteran keeping his body in the physical condition to grind through seasons and the fact that he’s a professor on the field. Actually, if the majority of the Vikings’ defensive players are to be likened to graduate students in Zimmer’s scheme, then Newman already has his Doctoral degree in hand.

Professor

“The question is, what haven’t I learned from him,” Xavier Rhodes said, saving himself and a reporter some time when asked about the number of things he’s learned from Newman. “That’s the [better] question. He teaches us a lot, man. He tells us what we need to do, when we’re in meetings we’re talking amongst each other, me, him, [Captain Munnerlyn], whoever is around. Looking at the film…We always talking amongst each other trying to help one another.”

The defensive backs likely aren’t the only one with this foresight ability, but Rhodes also said that there’s little from Zimmer’s game calls that surprises them anymore.

“Certain down and distances, we have a good prediction of what [Zimmer’s] going to call,” Rhodes said.

Most agree that the defensive-minded coach is putting his players in a position to succeed. He’s quick to point, however, that having talented players at every level of the defense makes him look awfully good.

Newman may be a surprise on that list of impact players – if only because there are cornerbacks five and six years his junior who have been deemed finished athletically – but there’s no arguing he’s not on the list. Despite the Vikings spending two early draft picks the past two seasons, one on Trae Waynes and one on Mackensie Alexander, Newman has started all five games this year and has had success in his role.

Stand-out stat

He’s allowed just 40 percent of the passes thrown his direction to be caught, which is the lowest rate in the league, according to Pro Football Focus’ NFL analyst Sam Monson. Take that, practical jokers armed with walkers and diapers.

Now, to be fair, part of that could be due to the fact the Vikings will play safety help over the top of Newman and ask him to do slightly less than they might ask of budding shutdown corner Xavier Rhodes, who will frequently guard the opponent’s top receiver when he’s healthy. Zimmer conceded he’s given help to Newman in his role this year, but no more than any other defensive player, he said. The Vikings have also given him the occasional breather by rotating in Waynes, which Newman said is a big benefit to the vet.

Still, it’s not like he’s taking it easy. Newman has played 299 snaps, according to Football Outsiders’ data. That’s about 87 percent of the defense’s snaps, which is the most of any corner on Minnesota’s roster. (That’s likely in part because Rhodes missed games at the beginning of the year with injury, but it still illustrates that Newman is holding up his end of the bargain with a heavy workload.)

“I mean, he’s played well,” Zimmer said. “We’re trying to take care of him a little bit because of his age obviously. I think it’s good to have Trae (Waynes) and Xavier (Rhodes), so we can move those guys around in there.

“He’s very intelligent,” Zimmer said of Newman. “He still understands things very well. Obviously, he knows the way I want the corners to play. He’s done a great job of using both his body and mind.”

Selfless

Newman was quick to deflect credit to the team’s defensive line, which is stopping the run and getting after quarterbacks so consistently that “you don’t have to cover very long.”

As for anyone questioning how he’s still getting it done at his advanced age, Newman said that’s not even on his radar.

“I don’t really know if I’ve had many questions people questioning me,” he said. “I just play football, man, and that’s it. I come to work, I put my shoes on like the next guy… My job’s simple: come to work, do the best that I can and, at the end of the day, live with it.”

The post Don’t call Terence Newman old; leave that to his playful Vikings teammates appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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