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.
“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.”
“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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