Sunday slant: Newman’s value on, off field

Terence Newman is a refreshing, experienced voice in the locker room and on the field with his wisdom and wit.

Terence Newman seems like the perfect fit for the Minnesota Vikings in many ways, but he’s far from the token player with experience in Mike Zimmer’s defense.

Last year, the Vikings seemed to have that tactic when signing safety Chris Crocker during training camp when injuries invaded the defensive secondary. Crocker was cut before the season started, making it clear he was brought in as partly a camp body, partly a second voice of experience in Zimmer’s defense.

Newman has that kind of experience in Zimmer’s defense, having played for him with the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals. But Newman was attained with a higher price tag (including $750,000 in guarantees) and higher expectations and he has been living up to them, bringing valuable on the field and in the locker room.

“He looks good. He’s very, very smart,” Zimmer said. “He’s helping the guys with a lot of the different concepts and talking about the intricate part of the game, and, yes, he looks good.”

Newman took the vast majority – if not all – of the first-team reps during offseason practices and minicamp, despite the signing of first-round draft pick Trae Waynes. So far, Newman is holding steady on the field.

Off the field, he’s a breath of fresh air with enough veteran cache to needle coaches and management without fear of reprise, bringing a fun mix of humor and wit:

  • When posed a leading question in his first interview with local media that included a phrase that he will be starting, he stopped the questioner in his tracks: “Wait. You talk to somebody? I’m going to be starting? Is that going to happen?” Newman joked while throwing down the first warning that questions should be sharp when posed to him.

  • He proved it’s not just reporters he can poke fun of. He stopped himself midsentence when answering a question about the team as general manager Rick Spielman walked by: “You’ve got Arnold Schwarzenegger over here just muscling people around,” Newman said, referring to Spielman’s level of fitness before taking a shot at his own age. “And Shaun Hill’s my favorite. It’s because we’re the two oldest guys on the team.”

    Later, he did the same when asked about younger teammates leaning on him for advice: “Well, hell, everybody’s younger. C’mon now,” Newman said.

  • Even Zimmer wasn’t free from Newman’s barbs. Asked if Zimmer is doing anything different with this defense from their days together in Dallas or Cincinnati, Newman said, “Yeah, he’s not using as many four-letter words. It’s way different than in the past for sure, and then there’s another word that he likes, it’s kind of hyphenated – I can’t really say. He’s got to spend more time with the whole defense and offense, so it’s a little different just not hearing him yell consistently. It’s kind of good, I guess.”

    Newman has quickly recruited teammates into his fan base. It’s not just the experience he brings in Zimmer’s defense, it’s his engaging personality that quickly connects with people of varying ages, backgrounds and jobs.

    Newman could be taking over Captain Munnerlyn’s starting job at left cornerback last year, but he and Munnerlyn have quickly formed a bond. After their final minicamp practice, Newman was going inside to grab a drone he bought for Munnerlyn.

    “He just gave me (a drone). He’s a good dude,” Munnerlyn said. “I’m just going to fly it up in the air. I’m going to use it at my youth football camp (July 18 in Mobile, Ala.).”

    In some ways, Newman is conducting his own football camp for his teammates. He brings a decade of experience to the position, but also a bridge between Zimmer, the defensive concepts and the cornerbacks in their first or second year of that defense.

    He knows the defense like no other player, and he knows when it works best, echoing Zimmer’s philosophy.

    “It’s no different than you’ve got these machines that put these computers together. Each part has to do its job for the computer to work overall, so it’s no different here,” Newman said. “That’s the best analogy I can give you. Every part has to click.”

    Newman has seen it all come together in Cincinnati, his last stop with Zimmer. He brings that sort of confidence to a generally young secondary.

    “Terence is a true pro,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “I mean, what he adds to the room as far as confidence as far as a calmness, as far as guys being able to reach out to him for information, those type of deals. He’s a true pro. The first time he gets something – if he doesn’t get it then you won’t worry about it. He won’t make the same mistake again, so from that aspect of it, his work ethic and the younger guys seeing that work ethic and seeing how he comes out here and applies things from the classroom to the field is an advantage to us.”

    Newman will be 37 years old before the season begins. By that time, Waynes may be developed enough to handle starting duties. Or maybe Newman’s confidence and experience will simply keep his steadying presence as part of the front line.

    Either way, Newman’s presence – on the field or on the sideline – has immense value in this still-developing secondary. He knows the defense. He believes good things are ahead. And he knows Zimmer.

    “He’s a hard-ass for lack of better terms, but he also cares about his players,” Newman said. “He’s not a guy that’s going to go out there and ride you, ride you, ride you, but he actually genuinely cares about everybody that plays for him.”

    After two months, it’s easy to see why Zimmer cared about Newman enough to make him part of his second season in Minnesota.

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