Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has an extended member of his coaching staff, and he takes the field every week.
Terence Newman wears one helmet but many hats for the Vikings, and the most important may be his thinking cap.
Over 15 seasons in the NFL, he’s played cornerback, nickelback and even a little safety here and there, but his list of titles doesn’t stop at player positions. From student of the game to evolving into mentorship – and even a “coaching” role – Newman seems to do it all.
Newman, who turned 39 in September, studies even more now than when he first entered the league.
When it comes to breaking down an opponent’s tape, Newman sees a puzzle just waiting to be solved.
“You have a bunch of equations, and you have to just put together the pieces to get the right answer,” Newman said. “You watch film and then you go practice, and you see how many things you can recall from your film study.
“You can get by on straight athletic ability for so long, and then that catches up to you,” Newman added. “So you have to have another gear where, OK, you have athletic ability, but now you’re also being a cerebral player – recognizing formations and splits and knowing what teams like to do out of those.”
Newman said he tries to hone in on every little detail – from receivers, to tight ends, to the leader of the huddle.
“I like to see how a quarterback does his three-step [drop], his five-step, and then be able to culminate routes off of those,” Newman explained.
His work has paid off. Newman has earned a reputation around the league for not only his on-field abilities but the level of preparation that can be expected from the vet.
Zimmer recalled his time as a defensive coordinator in Dallas, during which the Cowboys drafted Newman fifth overall in 2003.
“He used to play the slot when he was a lot younger in Dallas,” Zimmer said of Newman returning to the nickel position in 2017. “He wasn’t great at it back then, but I think it’s helped him to understand his responsibilities, and even when he’s had to go back at safety a little bit, that helps him understand the overall aspect of everything.”
Newman describes Zimmer as a “tough-love coach” who wasn’t afraid to tell the young player that his technique was horse-you-know-what. But Newman took the criticism because he wanted to live up to his full potential on the football field – and he knew Zimmer cared.
Newman’s relationship with Zimmer has influenced the road map of his NFL career. Four years after Zimmer transitioned from Dallas to Cincinnati, Newman reconnected with him.
“I knew that if I went to Cincy, I was going to play some good football. I go to Cincy, and we play well, and the next year play well, and the next year play well. And then Zim’ calls me after my contract expires there and says, ‘Hey. Would you like to play [in Minnesota]?’ And I’m like, ‘Hell yeah, let’s do this.’ ”
Zimmer has helped develop the two-time Pro Bowler into the player he is today, and Newman now is investing a similar amount of energy into his younger teammates.