EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — The end of an NFL player’s career can be a difficult adjustment with, to start, the sudden dip in adrenaline, camaraderie and competition.
Terence Newman was hardly at risk for a bad experience.
He was able to stay on the field until just three days remained before his 40th birthday, but he never had a serious injury. After the Minnesota Vikings announced his retirement, well, he didn’t even have to leave the building. Newman immediately joined the coaching staff and started analyzing film for head coach Mike Zimmer before he could even indulge in a moment of nostalgia.
“I was definitely cool with it. It was something I wanted to try eventually,” said Newman, whose title is nickel/defensive backs coach. “I figured, ‘When’s the best time but now?’ I’ve been in this defense. I know the players. Pretty simple.”
As he discussed his decision in front of reporters at team headquarters Monday, two days after the surprise news emerged with the roster cuts to reach the 53-player limit for the regular season , Newman at one point started to cry before recomposing himself after a few seconds. Fifteen years in the league is a long time, after all, and even the steeliest of personalities can be softened by a sentimental cocktail of joy, sadness and pride.
Make no mistake, though: Newman will not be wishing this season he still had a helmet.
“I’ve thought about what it’s going to be like on the sideline and not have to hit 300-pound men,” he said. “It’s probably going to be different the first time, not having done it before, probably one of those things where you have to really experience it to be able to talk about it.”
Though Zimmer approached Newman with the idea, the Vikings were prepared to keep him on the roster. His willingness to become an assistant, thus, allowed them to keep a younger player, like undrafted rookie cornerback Holton Hill for example, who might have otherwise had to hit the waiver wire.
“My body felt good, but I realized that it was time for me to step away,’ Newman said. “I wanted to be done and not have to worry about, ‘What if I ever start a family? Will I be able to walk and play with my kids and stuff like that?'”
In an interview with The Associated Press last week, before he knew what was coming, Newman said he wasn’t spending any extra time this summer savoring his NFL status given that this was already likely going to be his final season as a player. He wasn’t anxious about the end coming, either.
“If you respect yourself as a person and don’t want to be objectified as just a football player, I feel like you have a much easier transition once you’re done because you already understand, hey, you’re a person,” Newman said. “Football has helped me tremendously and I’ve enjoyed it, but I’m not a football player. I’m a human being. I’m Terence Newman first and foremost, but I happen to play football.”
If an injury were to leave the Vikings short-handed at cornerback, NFL rules would prohibit them from signing Newman. No person employed by a club in any capacity other than as a player may play for any club in that same season unless he’s counted on the active list at the time of the roster reduction to 53 players.
Newman’s primary proteges are Mackensie Alexander, who was listed as doubtful on the injury report on Friday to play in the opener on Sunday against San Francisco, and Mike Hughes, the team’s first-round draft pick.
“I know him on a personal level, so it’s kind of him giving me the gems,” Alexander said. “His coaching expertise is a little different than a normal coach would have, but it works and I’m loving the opportunity to be coached by him.”
The sight of Newman on the practice fields, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt rather than his purple No. 23 jersey, was an odd sight. Newman said hearing his now-former teammates call him “Coach” has been strange. His status as an advice dispenser, though, has remained unchanged.
“He’s a guy I went to a lot last year and will continue to go to to ask, ‘What is this corner thinking in this technique? What is he trying to take away? Where is he trying to make you go?'” wide receiver Adam Thielen said. “He’s just a tremendous asset to this team, and I’m glad he’s here.”
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