Congratulations, Terence Newman. DeAngelo Hall’s offseason retirement elevated you to active NFL career leader for interceptions.
“Not even on my mind,” the Vikings cornerback said coming off the practice field Monday.
That’s 42 picks in 221 games heading into Season 16. Good for 67th place in NFL history, according to Pro Football Reference.
“Sweet,” Newman said.
Wait. There’s a but, Terence …
But you need 40 more to break the record of 81 that Hall of Fame safety Paul Krause posted in 226 games over 16 seasons with the Redskins (1964-67) and Vikings (1968-79).
“One thing I do know,” said Newman, “is that’s one record that will never be broken. I think you’d have to play 25 years.”
Only eight active players are among the top 257 on the career interception list. Richard Sherman, who’s 169th with 32 interceptions, is the youngest at 30. Newman turns 40 on Sept. 4.
“I hate to say I hope it never gets broken,” said the 76-year-old Krause, “but, doggonit, I like that record.”
The last time Krause didn’t hold it outright was Dec. 12, 1979. It was a Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles.
Krause started against the Rams in Week 14. He was tied at 79 with former Giants and Packers safety Emlen Tunnell, who retired in 1961.
Krause had two interceptions in a 27-21 overtime loss. He played two more games and retired at 37 after the season.
“A lot of guys have tried to break that record,” Krause said. “A lot of Hall of Famers have tried, too. And it still stands.”
Krause played 14 of his 16 seasons before the NFL opened up the passing game in 1978 with major rule changes, including illegal contact and permitting pass protectors to extend their arms and use their hands.
Pass attempts have been on the rise ever since. In 1977, teams averaged 24.9 attempts and 12.8 completions per game. Last year, teams averaged 34.2 attempts and 21.2 completions.
“It’s a completely different game than even when I first came in back in 2003,” Newman said. “When I first came in, they weren’t calling illegal contact that much. I could have a hand on a guy and ride him all the way down the field.
“But that changed a few years later. They started calling illegal contact on everything. That alone should tell you no one will ever get to 81 picks.”
Offenses have gotten more sophisticated and efficient. In 1977, teams completed an average of 51.3 percent of their passes with 13.9 touchdowns and 20.1 interceptions in a 14-game season. Forty years later, they completed 62.1 percent of their passes with 23.2 touchdowns and 13.4 interceptions. That’s 6.7 fewer interceptions in two more games.
Krause attributes some of the dip in interceptions to coaching.
“People say the game has changed, and maybe it has,” he said. “But defensive backs are still supposed to cover the receivers, and the receivers are still supposed to catch the ball.
“It gets complicated, but I felt it was easy,” Krause said. “As the free safety, I’m back there protecting everybody. They’re counting on me. If they throw a long bomb, I’m going and getting the ball.”
According to Krause, the skills he needed to intercept 81 passes were sharpened by playing center field, which he did well enough at Iowa to earn All-America honors and a selection in the Major League Baseball draft.
“I caught so many fly balls that I used to be able to catch them behind my back,” she said. “The ball comes off the bat the same way it comes out of the quarterback’s hand. And very few balls got over my head unless they were out of the park.”
As for Newman, injuries at the nickel corner spot have the Vikings leaning heavily on the old pro heading into the third preseason game on Friday.
“All is well,” Newman said before leaving the field with one final thought on Krause’s mark.
“Eighty-one isn’t happening again.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org