For ageless wonder Terence Newman, shift to safety easy

MINNEAPOLIS -- While his teammates were at the Mall of America on Monday night enjoying the Minnesota Vikings' annual Christmas party, defensive back Terence Newman was back at Winter Park studying game film.There are many reasons why Newman is s...

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Minnesota Vikings cornerback Terence Newman, left, intercepts the football intended for Oakland Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes, right, on Nov. 15 at Coliseum. The Vikings defeated the Raiders 30-14. (Photo by Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports)
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MINNEAPOLIS - While his teammates were at the Mall of America on Monday night enjoying the Minnesota Vikings’ annual Christmas party, defensive back Terence Newman was back at Winter Park studying game film.
There are many reasons why Newman is still playing in the NFL at 37, and dedication to his craft is one. Newman said he didn’t hear about the party until he arrived at the practice facility, but he didn’t budge when it was suggested there was still time to get to it.
“It’s a big game this week,” he said. “I didn’t go. I was here (at Winter Park) … When I got here, people were like, ‘You’re not going to the Christmas party?’”
Nope. Newman is worried about trying to help the Vikings (8-5) stop a two-game losing streak in Sunday’s game against Chicago at TCF Bank Stadium.
As for what position Newman will play against the Bears, he’s not sure. After starting the first 12 games at cornerback, he moved to free safety for Thursday’s 23-20 loss at Arizona when injuries decimated the Vikings’ secondary.
Newman barely had played safety in his career, but that wasn’t a big deal to coach Mike Zimmer. This is the seventh season he’s had Newman in his system, the first six when Zimmer was a defensive coordinator in Dallas and later Cincinnati.
“We’ll find out on Sunday,” Newman said of his position. “Honestly, I didn’t know I was going to be (at safety for last week’s game). I think it was before the game (when he found out).”
Newman switched positions after injuries sidelined starting free safety Harrison Smith (hamstring) and strong safety Andrew Sendejo (knee), and Antone Exum was put on season-ending injured reserve with rib and shoulder injuries. Rookie Anthony Harris started for Sendejo.
Sendejo practiced Tuesday and could return against the Bears. However, Smith did not practice, and his status is uncertain.
Newman, who has three interceptions this season, is the second-oldest defensive player in the NFL. The oldest is Oakland safety Charles Woodson, 39, a cornerback before he switched positions at 35.
When he was with the Cowboys, hall of fame coach Bill Parcells drafted Newman in 2003 out of Kansas State and coached him for four seasons. Even Parcells admitted he’s “very surprised” Newman is still playing.
“I asked Zimmer to ask him if he was dyeing his hair,’’ Parcells said Tuesday. “He’s probably a graybeard now and he doesn’t want to show it. But he’s a terrific athlete, and he’s had a great career.
“God was good to him, and he’s been good to himself. He trains hard, he’s diligent, he works at his game.”
Parcells isn’t the only one joking about Newman’s age. When asked Tuesday about playing in cold weather, Newman cracked, “It’s not an advantage or disadvantage unless you’re 37 and you got old bones and old joints.”
Newman joked earlier this season that red wine is one key to his longevity. That prompted several teammates to spring into action.
“Almost every guy in the secondary went and bought a bottle,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “We were in a group chat and everybody sent pictures (to Newman and said), ‘Look, Terence, we got one.’ Everybody had their little glass showing. He just started laughing and said, ‘Hey, you guys are funny.’
“But it’s worked for him. He’s playing at a very high level. To go from cornerback to safety and still be playing it very well, it’s amazing.”
Newman has been peppered with questions about whether he would consider shifting to safety to prolong his career even more. Newman said it can be mentally tougher to play safety but that athletically the position is not as difficult because “you don’t have to run backward when some dude is running full speed forward.”
“I’ve still got wheels,” Newman said. “I wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t run. … I think I can still play corner. I could play safety. I’ll do whatever the team asks me to do. … My biggest thing is trying to stay in the door (with the team).”

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