Vikings' Newman getting better with age
MINNEAPOLIS — A former teammate of Terence Newman's in Dallas has a nickname for him.
"Akin Ayodele calls me Benjamin Button," said the Vikings cornerback. "I think that's hilarious."
In the 2008 movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," the main character ages in reverse.
"That's fitting," Vikings safety Harrison Smith said. "There are no signs of him aging, so he could be going the opposite way."
Newman, who will turn 39 in September, is the second-oldest defensive player in the NFL behind Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison—four months his senior. Yet last season, Pro Football Focus rated Newman the ninth-best cornerback in the NFL.
"My body feels awesome right now," said Newman, entering his 15th season. "I actually feel better this offseason than I did last offseason at this point. That's super crazy, because I did all the same things this year as I did last year."
With Newman showing no signs of slowing down, the Vikings must figure out how to best use him. In his two previous seasons, he was the starting left cornerback. The Vikings might think Trae Waynes, their first-round draft pick in 2015, is ready to start there.
If that becomes the case, Newman could replace Captain Munnerlyn—who signed with Carolina as a free agent—as the nickel back. Newman said he's been rotating with Mackensie Alexander throughout spring drills on the first team, and he was in that spot during an organized team activities session open to the media last Tuesday.
"I've played both sides at cornerback, safety and nickel since I've been here, so I'm comfortable wherever they put me," Newman said. "I don't care what my role is as long as I have a role."
Considering Newman is a long-time favorite of Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, he figures to continue playing a key role. Newman had two previous stints under Zimmer, being with him in Dallas (2003-06) and Cincinnati (2012-13) when he was a defensive coordinator.
Last March, Newman signed a one-year $3.25 million contract. With 41 career interceptions, he's second among active players behind Washington safety DeAngelo Hall's 43.
The list of cornerbacks still effective at Newman's age is short. Two hall of famers to have done so are Darrell Green, who played until he was 42, and Deion Sanders, who lasted until 38.
"Every year since Terence has been here, he seems to be getting better," Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said. "He's still performing at a high level. I think he can play until (he's 40). Whenever he does retire, I think it will come as a shock."
Newman can't say yet whether 2017 could be his final season.
"I won't know until after this season, and I see how my body is feeling,'' Newman said. "I go year by year. When I do sail off, probably nobody will know it. I won't say anything to anybody. I'll just be done.''
So he doesn't want a farewell tour?
"I don't want the hoopla and the whole shebang," he said. "I don't want a bunch of parties and stuff. I've gave it my all and had fun playing this game, but when I'm done, I will be like a guy who works in a corporate office or in construction. They just retire and then go enjoy life. I'll just ride off into the sunset.''
Newman has an open invitation from Zimmer to join his coaching staff following his playing career. Newman said it's "possible" he could join Zimmer but said it wouldn't be anything that happens right away.
"Whenever I'm done, I'm going to take a year off and just do some things that I haven't had an opportunity to do,'' he said. "So, that would be at least two years away from now if I were to be done at the end of this year.''
Newman's primary motivation is to win a championship ring, something he never has come close to doing. In nine seasons with the Cowboys, three with the Bengals and two with the Vikings, he has appeared in eight playoff games—and been on the winning side just once.
"My ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl, and that's why I'm still playing,'' Newman said. "I'm grateful that I'm still playing at this age. I've been blessed."