The Vikings are 8-2 heading into their important Thanksgiving game at Detroit, and veteran defensive back Terence Newman isn’t complaining. It’s better than being 2-8. It’s better than almost every other record in the NFL right now.
But while a lot of the outside noise filtering into the Vikings locker room is glowing praise about what this team has achieved, Newman is happy to hold court anytime to remind his younger teammates that they haven’t done anything yet.
“I’m never too high. I’m old. I don’t get excited about much. All you have to do is look at last year. It’s that simple. Everyone was telling us how good we were, and things went sour. Then everyone told us how bad we were,” Newman said this week. “I’ll keep it in perspective. It’s a long season. Seasons aren’t determined by how you play after Week 8, Week 10, Week 12. You have to wait until all the chips have fallen.”
Newman was referencing the 2016 Vikings, who started 5-0 before losing eight of their final 11 games to finish 8-8 while missing the playoffs. But he can draw on any number of his previous NFL experiences to make his point.
Newman, 39, is in his 15th NFL season and third with the Vikings. He’s been to the playoffs seven different times — four with the Cowboys, two with the Bengals and once with the Vikings.
His teams have gone a combined 1-7 in those playoff games. He was on a team that started 7-2 but finished 10-6 and was one-and-done in the playoffs. He was on another that was 12-1 but lost two of its final three regular season games and its first playoff game. The 2015 Vikings were 7-2 and finished 11-5 before falling to Seattle in the playoff opener.
“It wasn’t a specific season, but the fact that I’ve been in the league 15 years and won one playoff game in my career — that speaks for itself,” Newman said. “Until you get to the playoffs and win in the playoffs, nothing else matters.”
As Newman said those words, fellow DB Xavier Rhodes interrupted our chat, put his arm around me and asked what we were talking about. Rhodes, 27, is a dozen years younger than Newman and has appeared in just one playoff game. But he nodded as his veteran teammate preached.
“By week 17, they’ll let us know where we stand,” Rhodes said. “Right now doesn’t mean anything. What does it mean?”
Newman noted his appreciation for Rhodes’ mentality, saying, “He definitely knows. He even takes it a step further.” He made sure to reiterate that he likes this current Vikings team, saying the team is “hungry” and “playing very complementary football, and that’s a big part of why we’ve been successful.”
The task now is to maintain an even keel without getting complacent. If anyone can reinforce that message, it’s Newman.
“We’re in a good position right now, but we could be in a bad position if we get comfortable being in the position we’re in,” he said. “It’s like someone who does well at a job for a long time and gets lackadaisical, chances are he’s not going to be good at his job anymore.”