EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — One week was plenty long enough for Terence Newman to begin impacting Vikings teammates.
Newman, who joined Minnesota in free agency this offseason, began preparing for his 13th pro season when Vikings players converged on Winter Park Monday for the first week of the team's voluntary offseason workout program.
In addition to 172 starts in 174 games played, the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback is bringing prior experience under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. When Newman was drafted by Dallas fifth overall in 2003, Zimmer was the Cowboys defensive coordinator. They worked together on "Big D's" defense for four seasons and reunited for the same relationship in Cincinnati from 2012-13.
"I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room," Newman told Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall. "You play your best football under him."
In playing half his career under Zimmer, Newman knows the qualities the coach values, like toughness and resolve.
"He likes guys that are smart. They know what they're doing. It's important to know what you're doing and what the guys around you are doing, to be tough, guys that are going to go out and do everything they can do to help improve the team and the defense and offense, whatever it is, and guys who are tough-minded. Not everything goes well during a game, so if something bad goes there, how are you going to respond to that?"
Newman also knows the system that helped the Vikings improve in multiple categories last fall, including going from 31st to 7th in passing yards allowed per game and from 32nd to 11th in points allowed per game from 2013 to 2014.
Defensive Coordinator George Edwards, defensive backs coach Jerry Gray and assistant DBs coach Jonathan Gannon are all back for a second season with the Vikings.
"That's something that Coach Zimmer wanted to keep together, keep the staff pretty similar, just build on what he's already kind of started here," safety Harrison Smith said. "We just need to take advantage of that and not get complacent and try to improve on something every day and pick up something new in the defense and listen to the coaching points from each individual coach, Coach Zim', Coach Edwards and just build."
Now preparing for his fourth season, Smith was a leader of the relatively young secondary that saw talents emerge last season. Experience in the defense should help starters teach other new arrivals.
View images of the defense from week one of the Vikings offseason program.
Newman will be able to offer quite a bit of on-field coaching points as well, once the program advances to on-field activities, and has helped set a tone with the team this week.
"I met with him and he seemed like a great guy," cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. "Like he's going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he's been in it before, so he's going to help us out a lot. He's a big asset to this team and the defense."
Smith said Newman's "going to know some things just from doing it so often that we might not have picked up on in year one or might not be second nature yet. He'll just be, not only the great player that he's been but another set of eyes that can maybe give us some pieces here and there."
Rhodes and Smith said they were glad to be back in action and start 2015 by building on experiences from last season.
"The bond and chemistry is the same with the coaches," Rhodes said. "We know one another and our tendencies and what we need to work on, and they know our weaknesses and how they can help us improve on our weaknesses."
Added Smith: "I think everybody is ready to be here and ready to go to work, and I think that's how it was last year, too. Now, we've seen what we can do — not that we did it the whole time, but we saw the potential that we can fulfill, and that's what we're working toward now, so we have confidence but know there's a lot of work to be done so that's kind of the feeling around here."