MANKATO – Tributes to, and career retrospectives about, Tom Brady sprang up from all corners of the NFL on Thursday, as the future Hall of Famer celebrated his 40th birthday.
Vikings cornerback Terence Newman was born one year, one month and one day after Brady, and will turn 39 a week before the Vikings begin the regular season against the New Orleans Saints. If Newman — who has started 31 of the Vikings’ past 32 regular-season games — continues to be a significant piece of the Vikings defense in 2017, he’ll have attained a measure of longevity that might be even harder to grasp than the one Brady is chasing.
According to Pro Football Reference, only three quarterbacks have started at least 10 games in a season at age 40 or older since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, two of them twice. Brett Favre did it with the Vikings in 2009 and 2010, Warren Moon accomplished the feat with the Seahawks in 1997 and 1998, and Vinny Testaverde did it with the Cowboys in 2004.
But as rare as it is for a quarterback to hold down a starting spot at Brady’s age, it’s even rarer for a defensive back to do it at Newman’s. Only two defensive backs — Darrell Green with the Redskins in 1999 and Charles Woodson with the Raiders in 2015 — have started 10 games at 39 or older.
“He’s been blessed with great genes,” coach Mike Zimmer said of Newman. “When we drafted him in Dallas, he was the Big 12 indoor sprint champion. He’s always been able to run, but I think the thing that’s helped him to be able to stay and continue to play is not just his athletic ability but the way he studies and prepares for games. He’s hard to fool when he gets out there.”
Zimmer has said he still sees Newman as a corner, but during a blitz period on Thursday, Newman got some work at safety, where he started one game in 2015.
Zimmer: D didn’t fold
The Vikings’ 3-8 slide at the end of last season saw their defense give up a combined 72 points in back-to-back games against the Colts and Packers in December.
But when asked if the defense slipped late last season, Zimmer was ready with a brusque reply.
“We had two bad games,” he said. “I don’t know about ‘tapered off.’ We finished [sixth] in the league in points scored and every other statistical thing. We [allowed] 16 points against Detroit [in both games.] They kicked the field goal to tie it [in the first game] and scored a touchdown in overtime to make it , I believe.”
The Vikings allowed the third-fewest yards in the league last season, and hadn’t given up more than 26 points in a game before Dec. 18, when Andrew Luck posted a 125.6 passer rating in the Colts’ 34-6 win. Aaron Rodgers followed it with a 136.6 passer rating on Dec. 24, as the Packers beat the Vikings 38-25.
$12M bonus for Rhodes
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes’ new contract with the Vikings makes him one of the five highest-paid players in the league at his position. And it will put more than $20 million in Rhodes’ pocket this season alone.
Rhodes, who signed a five-year contract extension over the weekend, will receive a $12 million signing bonus this season to go with his guaranteed base salary of $8.026 million, according to NFLPA salary data.
His $10.4 million base salary in 2018 is guaranteed, as well.
The extension leaves the Vikings with $11.7 million in cap space for 2017, which could help the team absorb a greater cap charge as part of a contract extension for a player, such as nose tackle Linval Joseph.