He endured a painful sports hernia that required mid-season surgery, and then dealt with the pain when he tried to return too quickly.
"It set me back a while … a lot," Newman said. "It hurt — literally. The fact that I had to get cut by my groin made it even worse. I had a tear just above my pelvic bone, so they had to go in and stitch the muscle back together. Then the fact that I was out for a while … I tried to play with it — played terrible — and then I came back and played better, but I was never fully healed last year.
"Then, in January, I had some bone spurs that I had for a while — finally decided to address that. Now my body feels the best that it's felt in a while. With the injuries, you start to walk different, your body starts to adapt to that for the compensation, so now I just have to re-teach my body certain things. It's been a work in progress, but it's coming along."
The progress his body has made while recovering mirrors the progress Newman said he has seen from the Dallas defense in this offseason's Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and last week's mini-camp.
"We've put in some new stuff, and you know, we've been doing the same thing for three years now, and I think guys are really starting to get the whole scheme, and understanding that if one guy's out of place, the whole defense is messed up," he said. "So we've been executing well, and the guys have been getting to the quarterback and getting some turnovers. It's all coming together right now."
Overseeing the progress, of course, is Dallas head coach Wade Phillips. Much has been made of the idea that Phillips is trading in his soft, friendly approach for a more stern, disciplinarian-style persona on the practice field. Newman said that while Phillips might sound more vocal on the practice field, he hasn't changed as much as some might think. The difference, Newman said, is that Phillips seems to be coaching with greater sense of urgency.
"You hear him out there — he's always up-tempo, upbeat," Newman said. "Somebody's out of place — he's yelling at him. ‘You've got to be here. You've got to be there.' So you definitely hear his voice a lot, and guys know that if you mess up, he's going to say something.
"Everybody talked about him being soft, and whatnot, but (when) he first came here, we won 13 games, and nobody said anything about him — nobody questioned him. We lose a couple of games, and all of a sudden, that's an issue. He's the same coach. He just lets everybody know that he's going to hold them accountable, more accountable than he did last year — not that he didn't hold people accountable, but that's an emphasis for him, and if he's running the show, that's an emphasis on that. Guys get started early, he lets them know ‘hey, you don't start until I say you start.'
"He's just letting everybody know that ‘this is the year.' This has to be the year.
With the offseason departures of cornerbacks Anthony Henry and Pacman Jones, and safety Roy Williams, the 30-year-old Newman finds himself as the grizzled veteran of the Dallas secondary, and said that while he's not intentionally taking on a "coach on the field" role, he is readily sharing his knowledge and experience with the team's younger defensive backs.
"I'm just doing ‘me,'" Newman said. "Guys ask me for help if they need help. If I see mistakes, I try to help them correct them. You know, I won't be here forever — even though I'd like to be, until I'm about 75, 80 — but I'm just trying to help them out. There's a lot of talent in the secondary, and any way I can help somebody become better, and (help us) become better as a team, I'm going to do that."
Newman a Newly Whole Man
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