Sunday slant: Terence Newman still going strong, fast for Minnesota Vikings

Terence Newman is still going strong in his 13th season, as his approach and effectiveness haven’t slowed much despite heavy usage.

Adrian Peterson says 10 more years isn’t out of the realm of possibility and many scoff. That might be scoff-worthy for the running back position, but in admitting that might not be realistic, Peterson gave a tip of the inspirational cap to 37-year-old teammate Terence Newman.

That’s the same Newman that teammates have classified as one of the fastest players on the Minnesota Vikings.

How does the ageless wonder do it?

“I have no idea. Hey, I guess all the prayers I do every day work,” Newman said, insisting he doesn’t do anything different now than he did early in his career.

“My offseason is pretty much the same. That’s the crazy part.”

He says playing basketball three times a week in the offseason helps him maintain his foot quickness. In college he ran track.

But the exact speed he had when he entered the NFL as a first-round pick with the Dallas Cowboys in 2003 and how much he has now isn’t important to Newman. Whatever it is enough.

“I guess I run as fast as I need to usually. If the guy is running 4.3, I’ve got to run 4.3,” he said. “That’s just what it is – you’re competing so you don’t really get in that mode where you think about how fast you’re running. You just say, ‘Hey, I’ve got to run with this guy’ and cover him and the competitive side just takes over.”

That competitiveness has enabled to Newman to stay in the league for 13 years, play for Mike Zimmer in three different locations and gain the respect of teammates for not only his speed, but also his ability to be a solid run-support cornerback.

“He gave up no catches in Detroit and he gave up some (against Chicago), the guy made a great catch on him on the one ball and then he gave up a couple short ones, but did good,” Zimmer said. “Tackled well, physical in the running game.”

The ability to tackle well has been an emphasis for the secondary and the Vikings have been one of the best tackling teams in the league.

“That’s big-time for us,” safety Harrison Smith said. “I think a lot of people, when they think of secondary you don’t think tackling; they’re just trying to cover people. You see some corners not tackling and stuff like that, but we don’t have corners like that. We don’t have a nickel like that. We don’t have safeties that shy away from contact. Each individual guy has that pride and then as a unit we also have that pride.”

Newman will occasionally take on offensive linemen if that’s who is standing between him and the ball carrier.

Consider this: Peterson, with the nickname “All Day” and at age 30, has been off the field for almost 150 offensive snaps in seven games. Newman has been out of the game for only 25 defensive snaps in seven games and is one of the most heavily used defensive players.

Of course, he wouldn’t expect anything less and said he was prepared for it all year, despite earlier in the year saying he had no expectations for how much he would be used.

“That’s what you prepare for. I’m not surprised,” he said. “If I was surprised then obviously I would have come in with the mindset that wouldn’t help me play, so I’m not surprised.”

That sort of professionalism and preparedness has kept Newman in the game year after year. Only once has he played fewer than 13 games in a season.

This year, his performance is keeping first-round draft pick Trae Waynes on the bench, except for the rare instance when Xavier Rhodes has been injured or the coaching staff feels good enough about the game to put Waynes in for Newman for a series here or there, which has only happened in one game for two series.

Newman simply shows few signs of slowing down, both physically – “I think I can still run a little bit,” he said with a quiet confidence – and metaphorically. He isn’t quite sure how he does it, other than to simply keep a professional approach.

“Your body is pretty much your job so you’ve got to take care of it, do the right things, get adequate rest, get the situation rectified and healed and go about your business. You’ve got to take care of your body, that’s just the name of the game,” he said.

“The thing you really need to know is your technique is never going to be perfect so you have to work on every aspect of it constantly. That’s true. You feel like you get something mastered and then, say you have bad rep, mentally it’s like golf. If a guy hits a bad shot you’ve got to get it corrected. You have a bad step in footwork, you’ve got to get it corrected. Sometimes it’s a mental game and sometimes you just understand, ‘That was simple. That was on me.’ You just keep working on it every day, but you can never get to a place where you’re just comfortable with your technique.”

Last week, fellow cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was marveling that he had played in his 100th career game. He has nothing on Newman, who, if he stays healthy and the Vikings would happen to shock the “experts” and advance to at least the NFC Championship, would have 200 career games (including seven in the playoffs).

So after 181 regular-season games, 770 tackles, 150 passes defensed and 37 interceptions for three touchdowns, how much longer will the grizzled cornerback play?

He says he hasn’t thought about it.

“We’ll figure that out when I call it quits. I don’t have a time or number in mind,” he said. “It will come. When it happens, it happens.”

And when it does, the Vikings will have lost their most tenured player in a Zimmer defense, their oldest player and one of their fastest.

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