Age is the biggest equalizer in professional sports. About the time a player has a full understanding of the game, his skills start to diminish as time takes its toll on a body.
Most football players, especially cornerbacks, haven’t had the luxury of playing 15 seasons, but CB Terence Newman will be back with the Minnesota Vikings after signing a one-year deal that will have him playing in 2017 at age 39.
Newman entertained offers from three other teams, with the most interest being shown by the Raiders, but when the Vikings stepped up with an offer, he was more than happy to come back because he wants to win a title and had to ask himself if he thought his chances were greater in Minnesota or perhaps somewhere else – one of several factors that played into his decision to come back to the Vikings.
“The important part is physically and mentally I felt great, but being that my contract ran out, you have to have a place to play,” Newman said. “Obviously for me, it was situational where, if a team calls, is it a better situation than where I’m at now?”
There wasn’t any doubt in Newman’s mind that he was coming back. He and head coach Mike Zimmer talked about a potential contract around the time of the Scouting Combine, but he had made up his mind on Jan. 1 – the date of the Vikings final game, that he wanted to play in 2017.
“I didn’t not want to play,” Newman said. “I’ll make that clear. I definitely wanted to play, but obviously I didn’t want to play just to play. I wanted to play with a chance to win a ring.
“They could have talked to me right after the season and I would have say, ‘Hey, I’m on board. Let’s do this,’” Newman said.
Newman is mindful that his days as an elite player have passed. He might not be able run deep downfield in a one-on-one sprint with players who were in kindergarten when he was a NFL rookie. But, he has learned his craft to the point that he can make up for the occasional misstep.
He knows time wins all battles when it comes to athleticism but feels the mental aspect of the game is just as important as the physical gifts he has been blessed with.
“I think physically your body starts to respond to age,” Newman said. “Nobody is immune to that. For me personally, I can still run – I’m not as fast as I used to be, but I’m still pretty quick. I’m not as quick as I was. I can still jump, but can’t jump as high as I used to be able to. One thing that I realized is the mental aspect of the game – the study part – if you do it correctly, there are things that diminish, but you can still be successful. You just have to be a lot smarter than the people you’re going against.”
Asked what he expects his role to be in 2017, Newman said he isn’t sure. He’s not positive that this will be his final season, but is hoping his decision to return to Minnesota in hopes of winning the elusive Super Bowl ring will be the motivation he needs to get through the grind of a 15th season.
If all works as hoped, he wants to make his retirement decision easy – win and that will be that.
“I don’t know what my role is, but I’ve said it since Day One, whatever they ask me to do, I’m willing to do it,” Newman said. “I’m kind of at the end of the run here. This marathon is approaching the finish line. For me, I just want to win a ring. At some point in time, I’m going to stop chasing. That’s a reality to me. I can admit that for sure. What happens this season will definitely play a big part in my decision next year. Hopefully we can get it done this year and I can ride off into the sunset.”