As he enters his 13th season, there isn’t much that cornerback Terence Newman hasn’t seen in the NFL. He’s been there, done that. With that time has come wisdom. Newman went from being a budding young star in Dallas to a locker room veteran to a team leader when he followed defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to Cincinnati.
Getting ready to make his Minnesota Vikings debut, even a grizzled vet like Newman can get a little amped up making his debut in prime time against the San Francisco 49ers. While other new Vikings are geared up to play their initial game as a Viking under the glare of the Monday night lights, Newman is glad to still be playing the game he loves.
“It’s not just because it’s the first game and it’s not just because it’s on Monday night,” Newman said. “For me, I’m just excited to play in a game that means something.”
The 49ers are a difficult opponent for the Vikings to game plan for because the team has undergone such a complete overhaul since last season – losing players in mass on both sides of the ball and no longer having Jim Harbaugh running the show. When the Vikings watch film on the Niners, they do so knowing that many of the players who were on the team no longer play those roles and the limited amount they saw of the 2015 starters was the vanilla variety of offense and defense typically run in the preseason.
While the 49ers have made wholesale changes, Newman pointed out that every team undergoes turnover from one year to the next – rarely as pronounced as the changes seen in San Francisco, but change nonetheless.
“This team has a lot of players that weren’t here last year, me included,” Newman said. “All you can control is what you can control – just pick up things. How linemen come off the ball. How receivers release. There are always things you can pick up and study.”
Zimmer said Newman spent about 30 additional minutes with the cornerbacks on Friday going over film.
One of the primary reasons Newman was brought to the Vikings was his familiarity with Zimmer’s defense and his ability to impart the nuances of his system to younger players, serving as a veteran mentor who leads by example.
Newman understands his role, but said it isn’t limited to just him. It’s the duty of a veteran to help younger teammates and help show them the way as they take their first formative steps in the NFL.
“It doesn’t matter your position, if you have an older guy, you try to help the younger guys,” Newman said. “Everson (Griffen) has been a successful player in the league and he shows Danielle Hunter how to be a better defensive end. That’s just the job we inherit as the guys who have played the game more than the guys who haven’t. You just try to help as best as you can and hope that they suck it up like a sponge and use it.”
His role on the team is likely to diminish as rookie Trae Waynes makes his progression with the team, but, at this stage of his career, part of his job is to help develop the next generation of players that will follow him and lead the Vikings franchise into the next decade.
It is a component to the job description of players with double-digit years of experience. They help the younger players because their playing legacy goes beyond merely what you accomplished on the field. Their legacy includes the wisdom they imparted to the younger players and making it possible for them to pay it forward to the next crop of players entering the league from the college ranks.
“That’s just what we are,” Newman said. “We’re guys that are in different situations and you’ve seen the game for a number of years. The younger guys will pick your brain and hopefully learn from your experience.”