May 2013

Newman Earned Extension With Play And Leadership

When Terence Newman turned down more money from the Oakland Raiders to re-sign with Cincinnati in March, he made it clear that his relationship with defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer was a key factor.

Newman (328x440)

“I just want to do things the right way and be the best player that I can be, and the only place that I can get that is with him,” said Newman.

Zimmer is delighted that Newman elected to stay in Cincinnati.

“I love the kid,” Zimmer told me.  “He does what he’s asked to do, he’s a good athlete, he’s quicker than a cat, and he’s got some toughness about him.  I think he’s a heck of a football player.”

But wait a second – did Zimmer really refer to Newman as a kid?  The 11-year veteran will turn 35-years-old just a few days before the Bengals season opener in Chicago.

“To me he’s a kid,” said Zimmer with a grin.  “He’s no different than when we drafted him in (Dallas) whatever year it was.  He said to me one day last year, ‘Somebody asked me why I’m in such a good mood.  It’s because I love doing this and love being out here every single day.’  I’m sure when that changes he’ll retire.  But I don’t see it.”

Ironically, a year ago when the Bengals signed Newman following his release by the Cowboys, there was plenty of talk that he was too old.  Terence responded by starting 16 of 17 games, led the team in passes defensed, and Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 19th best cornerback in the NFL.

“I don’t think I played as well as I’m getting credit for,” Newman told me.  “I thought that I made strides for sure – getting back to having proper technique and things like that.  I thought I had an OK season to be honest with you.  As players we want to be as perfect as possible so I don’t know if I’ll ever have a season that I’m completely happy with.

“I got a lot of slack my last year in Dallas.  To come here and quiet the critics a little bit provides some satisfaction.  But I don’t think that anybody is really satisfied until they make it pretty deep in the playoffs and go to the Super Bowl and win it.”

With Newman and Leon Hall starting at cornerback and Adam Jones joining them in the Bengals’ nickel defense, Zimmer has a veteran trio that can handle his demands on the position.

“We ask our corners to do a lot of things,” said Zimmer.  “We’re not a Cover 2 team – we’re a team that’s going to get up there and try to press receivers.  It allows us to do so much more.  It allows us to blitz more, it allows us to pressure people, and it allows the front four to get sacks because we can make them hold the ball just a little bit longer.  When you have guys that you can line up at corner and say, ‘You’ve got that guy,’ it allows you to do so many more things.”

Newman INT (432x356)

“He puts pressure on us, but if somebody believes that much in you, that goes a long way,” said Newman.  “If your coach says, ‘Hey, you can go out and cover that guy,’ that bumps up your confidence.  That’s what players want to hear.  If your coach says, ‘You’re terrible,’ how do you think you’re going to play?  Zim’s good at that.”

In addition to his value on defense, Newman is helpful to the Bengals skill position players on offense since the two-time Pro Bowler has seen it all in more than 150 NFL games.

“He’s been around for a long time and he understands route combinations, when to sit (on a route), and when to do different things,” said Andy Dalton.  “There will be times when I go up to him at practice and say, ‘What did you see there?  Why were you able to get such a good jump on that route?’  It helps to know what he was thinking.”

“We’ll be out there and run a play and all of the receivers will immediately go to him and say, ‘What did you see?’” said Andrew Hawkins.  “He tutors us on what a defensive back is thinking and it has made a big difference in all of our games as receivers because he studies so much film and understands the game so well.”

“He’s been a great guy to have on this team – not only as a player but as one of the leaders in the locker room,” said Dalton.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie undoubtedly wanted Newman for his veteran leadership as well as his playing ability, but Terence ultimately chose to stay with a team that’s been to the playoffs in three of the last four seasons.

“I’m in a position in my career where a Super Bowl ring is important,” Newman told me.  “I knew that my role out there would have been helping players develop.  I don’t know if the Raiders are going to be able to contend for a playoff berth this year.

“I was pretty close to leaving to be honest with you.  It took me going out there to kind of jump-start things.  I didn’t know how much I was wanted here.  I knew that the coaches enjoyed having me around, but it’s a business.”

It’s been Newman’s line of work since 2003 when his coach was Bill Parcells and the number one pick in the NFL draft was Carson Palmer.  Eleven years later, Terence earned a 2-year/$5 million contract extension from the Bengals.

“Some of us are like fine wine,” said Newman.  “When you get older you understand a little bit more – not only about your body, but the importance of technique and things like that.  Sometimes I still fight demons, but I try to go out every day and try to get better at something.”

“He keeps himself young,” said Hawkins.  “He’s a jokester, he has a lot of energy, and guys feed off of that.  I’ve looked up to him since I was young, so it’s pretty cool to be on the same team as him.”

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Lamur Credits Mom’s Cooking For Added Bulk

Heading into his second NFL season, linebacker Emmanuel Lamur is noticeably bigger than he was as a rookie.  Chip Morton and the Bengals strength and conditioning staff deserve much of the credit, but they got some assistance from Emmanuel’s mother.

“Haitian food,” said Lamur when I asked how he added weight in the off-season.  “My mom has been cooking rice, beans, jerk chicken, and a lot of pasta.  I love to eat.  I try to eat at least six times a day.  And I’ve been lifting weights and working hard – that’s pretty much it.”

Lamur was a 210 pound safety as a sophomore at Kansas State before shifting to linebacker for his final two college seasons.  Although he added some weight after switching positions, Emmanuel was still a spindly 6’4”, 232 pounds in his rookie season with Cincinnati.

But when the Bengals opened OTAs last week, Emmanuel said that he tipped the scales at 244 pounds.

“I’ve put on 12 pounds and I feel faster and stronger,” Lamur told me.  “That’s going to help me when I’m taking on and shedding blocks and it should help my blitzing ability.

“He realized that if he wants to be an every down player he has to be able to hit with some of the bigger players,” said linebackers coach Paul Guenther.  “That’s what he concentrated on this off-season.  He did exactly what we asked him to do and he’s in great shape.”

“Last year I used my speed, which was my bread and butter, to play the game,” said Lamur.  “But it takes more than that to play linebacker in this league.  You have to be able to take on blocks and be physical.  I had to gain weight and 12 pounds is going to help me a lot and I’m planning on gaining another five.”

Lamur tackle (440x305)

Lamur signed with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent last year and was on the practice squad for the first seven games of the season.  But after being promoted to the active roster in early November, Emmanuel was used frequently in obvious passing situations and made his first NFL start in the playoff loss at Houston.

“He got better and better each week,” said Guenther.  “He started on the practice squad and continued to grow and as time went on, we realized that he should be in there playing for us – particularly on the passing downs.”

“He has a lot of athleticism and ability and he proved last year that the game wasn’t too big for him,” said Marvin Lewis.

The Bengals starting linebackers going into the season appear to be Vontaze Burfict (WILL), Rey Maualuga (MIKE), and James Harrison (SAM).  But Lamur is likely to get considerable playing time.

“Emmanuel is fighting for a starting job,” said Guenther.  “We have him with the first group in the nickel (defense) right now and he’ll be a swing guy in our base defense depending on the team that we play.  If we play a spread-out team, he might be on the field a little bit more in the base.  Right now he’s working at the two outside linebacker spots because he knows both of them.”

“Nothing is guaranteed – you’ve got to compete,” said Lamur.  “Coach is going to play the best guys.  This is a new year and I’ve got to improve and show the coaches what I’m capable of doing.”

At this point, there are 12 more pounds of him to like.

“He’s built like a linebacker and can run like a defensive back,” said Guenther.  “I’m really happy with him.”

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Zeitler Stays Late In Effort To Be Great

For several minutes after the Bengals first practice of this three-week period of OTAs (organized team activities), two offensive linemen could be seen doing additional drills with no coaches present.

One of them was undrafted free agent Larry Black, but it wasn’t the rookie’s idea to put in the extra time.

“I asked him (to stay) because I figured he was a young guy and wouldn’t say no,” said Kevin Zeitler.  “When you have a lot of young guys around, they’re willing to help, so I grabbed Larry Black and got some work in.  That’s what I feel you have to do because you have to outwork the competition.”

“He’s always one of the last guys to leave because he’s always doing something extra and working on something that maybe he didn’t do as well,” said Marvin Lewis.  “He’s very conscientious that way.”

“He’s about as dedicated to that as I’ve ever seen,” said my radio partner Dave Lapham.  “You’ll see skill position players out there after practice with the quarterbacks working on timing and that sort of thing, but very rarely do you see offensive or defensive lineman out there doing extra work – particularly a starter.  I think he’s going to have a banner year.”

Kevin Zeitler

Zeitler’s rookie year certainly lived up to expectations if not exceeded them.  The 27th pick in last year’s draft started every game at right guard and was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the 12th-best guard in the NFL.

“Very rarely does an offensive lineman start every snap for his team as a rookie and Kevin was able to do that,” said Lapham.  “Now I expect a major leap in his play from year one to year two.”

“I guess it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be,” said Zeitler.  “I felt that as the season went along I got better.  Still, every time that I watch the film there are so many things that make my stomach cringe.  That’s another reason why I do the extra work – I don’t want those things to ever pop up again.”

One of those cringe-worthy moments occurred at practice on Tuesday.

“It was the first day – some things went well and some things were rough,” said Zeitler.  “On a reach block, Geno blew me back today.  Yeah it’s Geno, but who knows, there are no defensive tackles better than Geno but there could be somebody close.  So I have to make sure that it doesn’t happen in a game.”

As a result, he pulled aside an undrafted rookie and did additional drills.

“He wants to be great – not good – but great,” said Lapham.  “He wants to be a Hall of Fame type guy.  That’s a coach’s dream and I’m sure that (offensive line coach) Paul Alexander is thrilled to death to have a guy like that.  The longer he’s around, the more his work habits are going to spill off to the other guys too.  He’s a great example that there are no shortcuts to success.”

“You should want to be your best every day and try to be perfect,” said Zeitler.  “If you strive toward perfection you can hit excellence.”

“Football is an emotional roller coaster.  Sometimes you hate this game so much that you wish you never played it and other days like today, I was running around the field thinking, ‘finally…it’s time to get better!’”

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net

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