Terence Newman is peaking at the right time for the Cowboys

Posted Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011  comments  Print Reprints
A

Career year?

With four picks in seven games this year, Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman has a chance to break his single-season career high for interceptions:

Yr.

INT

TD

G

'03

4

0

16

'04

4

0

16

'05

3

0

16

'06

1

0

16

'07

4

1

13

'08

4

0

10

'09

3

1

16

'10

5

0

16

'11

4

1

7

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IRVING -- Terence Newman has a habit of talking to reporters more when he plays badly than when he plays well.

So he hasn't had much reason to talk this year.

He has four interceptions, one off his career high, in only seven games. He has a team-high seven pass breakups, a fumble recovery and has allowed only 15 completions.

Last week against Buffalo, he had two interceptions, including a 43-yarder returned for a touchdown.

Clearly, there's plenty for him to talk about.

But after the summer he went through -- missing the bulk of training camp and the first two regular-season games because of an injury, after the Dallas Cowboys tried to sign the top free agent at his position -- Newman has only strengthened his resolve to let his good days speak for themselves.

"It's not an attitude. I've always been like that," Newman said.

The Cowboys probably won't mind if he never says anything again, so long as it means he keeps playing like this. At age 33, the nine-year veteran seems to be peaking in health, experience and ability.

The groin injury that sidelined him this summer is healed. The new defensive scheme gives him freedom. Everything that hits his hands seems to stick.

"Terence has always been a guy who can cover. He's always been a guy who can make plays," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "I think he's shown everybody what he can do the last few weeks with his performance, making a lot of plays on the ball, intercepting passes, running them back. And the other part of his game right now is he's sticking his nose in there and making some tackles. I think it probably all is a function of getting more and more comfortable in the scheme and also getting healthier and healthier."

Newman spent the second half of last season managing the discomfort from torn rib cartilage he suffered in a blowout loss at Green Bay. He still started all 16 games, posted 81 tackles and made five interceptions.

But he was one of the most-beaten cornerbacks in the NFL, according to STATS, Inc., giving up big plays late in games down the stretch. Against New Orleans, he gave up two highlight plays as the Saints drove for the winning touchdown on Thanksgiving Day.

Secondary coach Dave Campo said Newman was still making plays a year ago, but his injury -- which he never complained about -- was affecting him near the end of games.

"If he's banged up a little bit, that takes a little bit of the edge off from a confidence level," Campo said. "Now I think he's feeling good, and he's fresh. Us being able to rotate our corners in there, he's only playing about 40 plays a game, which for him is perfect. That's a plus because he's made a lot of plays after play No. 40 or 45, as opposed to last year."

But when this year began with another injury for Newman, just days into training camp, it looked as if a repeat of last year was on its way. The Cowboys appeared to be making contingency plans, nearly closing a deal for free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

Newman knew it. Everybody knew it.

"When they were talking about all of that, it was kind of a shock to me because this was a guy that I worked out with during the lockout," cornerback Orlando Scandrick said. "I knew what he put into it. The type of injury he had was just unfortunate. I think he's done a good job of battling through, and he's doing great. He's doing awesome for us this year."

Newman is unimpressed with his year. He's just trying to play football, he said.

"A lot of people have doubted me, and I think when, you know, you've got people that doubt you, you go out and you try to prove people wrong," he said.

Campo said Newman is using the skills he's always had.

"He's just catching the ball the way he always catches the ball," Campo said. "If he's in position, he's really used his eyes good this year. He's gotten himself in position to make some plays.... I think the system helps him, allowing him to do some things on his own. He has a number of different techniques to use, as opposed to being a little bit more structured. I think that's helped him. And I think he feels good."

Newman downplays his health. He didn't want it to be a big deal last year, and he doesn't want it to be a big deal this year.

"That's why I don't really want to talk about it, because I don't really care about injuries. I just want to go out, play football and have fun," he said.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760

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