The Vikings announced Wednesday that they agreed to terms with Newman to return the cornerback to Minnesota for his third season in Purple and 15th in the NFL. Newman, who will turn 39 three days before the 2017 regular season kicks off, said he’s ready to go both physically and mentally.
“I definitely wanted to play, but obviously I wasn’t going to play just to play,” Newman said during a conference call with Twin Cities media members Thursday. “If I played, I’d want to play in a place where there was a chance to win a ring.”
Newman said he’s excited about the Vikings 2017 season and the improvements that are being implemented after the team started last season 5-0 before sliding to an 8-8 finish. While the Vikings were hit with a barrage of injuries in 2016 and have been focusing on adding some pieces on the offensive side of the ball, Newman also said improvements will be made within the defensive unit.
“We had some games where we just didn’t show up, and that will get corrected,” Newman said. “Obviously if you’ve seen what [Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has] done around the league, you know that that’s not a big issue. Guys are going to go out and work hard, and we’re going to get everything corrected for sure.”
What Newman feels most positive about is returning to the Vikings locker room.
After jumping off to a great start in 2016 and then missing the playoffs, Newman wants to work alongside teammates he believes in to get back on track toward their postseason goals.
“For me, it’s the players. I know the players on this team,” Newman said. “I know what each and every one of them brings and how we all felt after last year.”
Added Newman: “I’d like to get that bad taste out of my mouth and finish what we started the year before.”
During an offseason conversation between Newman and Zimmer, the two spoke about the current team, the direction it’s headed, and Newman’s feelings on returning to the field. The 2017 season will mark Newman’s ninth season under Zimmer after spending time with him in both Dallas and Cincinnati prior to reuniting in Minnesota in 2015.
“They could have talked to me right after the season, and I would have said, ‘Hey, I’m on board. Let’s do this,” Newman said. “He was pretty transparent with me. We’ve been together for quite a while, so I know when he speaks to me about the team, it’s definitely been on his mind for quite a while.
“I wanted to play – he just needed to make sure he got it from my mouth,” Newman added.
As Newman enters another offseason regiment in preparing for the 2017 season, he said he understands that his body isn’t immune to age.
He may not be able to run quite as fast or jump quite as high as when the Cowboys drafted him in 2003, but where the physicality has decreased, Newman’s intelligence and experience has only increased with each year.
One thing he’s noticed while observing younger players is the significance of the game’s mental aspect and the importance of film study.
“If you do it correctly, most things can diminish and you can still be successful. You just have to be a lot smarter than the people that you’re going against – or you have to feel like you’re smarter, anyway,” Newman said. “Your study regimen has to be more detailed, more strict.”
“I think the mental aspect and the film study, you can definitely survive if you do that the right way,” Newman said.
While Newman started all 16 games in 2015 and 10 of 15 games last season, he isn’t sure what role he’ll be asked to fill in coming back this year.
And that’s OK with him.
“I’ve said it from day one – whatever they ask me to do, I’m willing to do it,” Newman said. “I’m at kind of the end of the run here. This marathon is approaching the finish line, and for me, I just want to win a ring.
“What happens this season will definitely play a big part in my decisions next year,” Newman continued. “Hopefully we can get it done this year, and I can ride off into the sunset.”