Mike Zimmer, their former defensive coordinator, will not be the only familiar face the Cincinnati Bengals will see Sunday in Minneapolis.
Terence Newman is still going strong in his 15th season at the almost unheard age of 39 for a cornerback.
“For him to be playing and playing pretty well, that says a lot about the type of guy he is, and how hard he works,” said Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who was teammates with Newman for three seasons from 2012-14.
“Even when he was here, you could tell that he was a guy who could play for as long as he wanted to,” Dalton added. “Really smart. It doesn’t surprise me that he’s still going.”
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Sunday will be the 219th game of Newman’s career and could be his 204th start. Newman has started three of the last four games as the nickel corner for the Vikings and has been in for 55 percent off the defensive snaps this season for a unit that ranks third in the NFL and is fifth against the pass.
Newman has 28 tackles with three passes defended, but his value isn’t measured by what he does on the field alone. He’s always been a respected leader and mentor in the locker room, especially in Minnesota, where the combined experience of starters corners Xavier Rhodes (five years) and Trae Waynes (three) is about half that of Newman’s.
“He’s helped us tremendously,” said Zimmer, head coach of the Vikings. “I think he’s helped Xavier Rhodes a lot, and Trae Waynes. He’s really helped everybody on the defense.”
That was the case in Cincinnati as well, especially in 2012 when Newman started 15 games while rookie first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick worked to find his footing and overcome injuries.
“He was one of those guys early on, when Dre was a rookie, to kind of help Dre through the rough spots of getting an opportunity to play,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “He was really able to relate to that.”
Lewis was impressed by Newman long before he joined the Bengals in 2012, saying Wednesday that the Bengals considered using the No. 1 overall pick on Newman in 2003 before drafting Carson Palmer.
“We were considering him at that spot,” Lewis said. “It tells you the athleticism, and then the character of the man is so strong, with how he does things. And now, he’s moved inside and is playing a little bit of a different role for them. He’s doing a nice job.”
Zimmer was the defensive coordinator in Dallas when Newman entered the league in 2003 as the No. 5 overall pick. When the Cowboys released Newman following the 2011 season, he re-joined Zimmer in Cincinnati. And when Zimmer left to become head coach in Minnesota in 2014, Newman joined him the following season.
“He’s very, very smart,” Zimmer said. “I love the kid. I think he’d be a tremendous coach whenever he does decide to hang it up.”
“I think Terence is smarter than that,” he said with a laugh before striking a serious tone.
“He’s been a coach on the field,” Lewis continued. “Obviously he and Mike have had a great relationship, so that’s great. They brought him back again this year, so it was great for Terence. Terence is great for the building — that was one thing that was so impressive. You would see Terence mentoring those guys all the time. It was impressive.”
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Injury update: Bengals running back Joe Mixon practiced Thursday for the first time since suffering a concussion in the first half of the Dec. 4 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mixon was listed as limited, as was backup Giovani Bernard for the second day in a row with a knee injury.
Also returning to practice were cornerback Darqueze Dennard (knee) and tight end Tyler Kroft (hamstring), who also were limited.
The only other change from Wednesday was backup tackle Eric Winston (hip) being added to the report as a limited participant.
Starting linebackers Vontaze Burfict (concussion), Kevin Minter (hamstring) and Nick Vigil (ankle) and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion) sat out again and are not expected to play Sunday.
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap (chest), tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (shoulder), defensive tackle Pat Sims (heel) and safety Shawn Williams (hamstring) were limited for a second day in a row.