Newman embraces role as Bengals sage

CINCINNATI -- Terence Newman knows he's what we'll simply call "advanced in age."

He doesn't need you nor I to remind him of the 11 seasons he's seen in the NFL. He doesn't need either of us to bring up the fact he's the only player on the Cincinnati Bengals' roster who was born in the 1970s. He also doesn't need to be told that "Father Time" has yet to lose in his grand battle with professional football players; a day will soon come when he'll be forced to halt his playing days and move on to other endeavors.

The main reason he doesn't need any of those hints about his age -- 35 -- is because Newman is comfortable he has time left before the dreaded "R-word," (retirement) becomes his reality. Besides, he understands the great advantage the Bengals, or any team for that matter, have in simply having him around.

As he enters his 12th season in the league, Newman continues embracing his role as Bengals sage.

"I've seen everything that kind of can see as far as offenses," the veteran cornerback said, holding a golf wedge as he sized up a chip shot in the Bengals' locker room after a minicamp practice earlier this week. "It's fun for me because I can kind of give my input on things that I've seen in the league, and just try to pass that on to [younger players]. All the young guys, I just try to help them any way I can. That's from Day 1. Since the time they got here they say, 'What are you? A player or a coach?'

"That's just me passing along what I got when I first got in the league."

He passes along golf advice, too. During the interview, he kept pointing out to third-year safety George Iloka a few reasons his whiffle-ball chip shots weren't landing in the laundry bins across the locker room. Ever the adviser Newman is. It seems he already has a hobby for when the dreaded "R-word" rolls around.

When Newman, who was drafted by the Cowboys with the fifth overall pick, entered the league from Kansas State in 2003 the NFL landscape was much different.

For starters, the Bengals weren't the annual division threat they now are. Back then, their old "Bungles" nickname certainly applied. Before head coach Marvin Lewis was hired that offseason the Bengals hadn't had even a .500 record since 1996. They hadn't had a winning tally further back than that -- 1990.

Schematically, the league looked different, too. Mobile quarterbacks were all the rage with the elusive Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb dominating headlines.

While running quarterbacks are still a little en vogue, teams are more apt to spread the field with multiple playmakers. Bigger tight ends, bigger receivers and shiftier running backs have become the NFL norm. As Newman keeps adapting to the subtle changes that come into the league each passing year, he's trying to make sure his young teammates understand how to properly counter them.

"We all watch film differently and see some things differently," Newman said, comparing himself to the first- and third-year players the Bengals have at corner. "I might see something. Say a receiver puts his opposite foot up. I saw that [Thursday] and started yelling, 'Run, run, run.' I knew that it was a run. That's just different little things people might not see."

After explaining that anecdote, Newman told another involving a series of routes Bengals receivers had run while rookie Darqueze Dennard covered one of them. From the sideline, Newman could tell Dennard didn't see all of the routes the way he should have.

"When you bring it up, they're like, 'Oh yeah, that's right. I did notice that,'" Newman said.

Dennard, the team's first-round pick who signed his rookie deal Thursday, has credited Newman's guidance, as well as that of Adam Jones and Leon Hall, to reasons why the game is beginning to slow down and his playbook is beginning to make more sense.

"We've got a lot of great players out here," Dennard said. "Looking especially in the secondary, there's a lot of players that have done a lot of good things in their careers. I'm just out here to learn from them and do the best I can to help the team."

Newman knows that inevitably Dennard or some other young cornerback will eventually take his spot. But he's determined they don't do that this year.

"I'm fighting for a roster spot, too, like everybody else, in my mind," Newman said. "Honestly, I think that all nine of us could be on rosters and contribute this year. That's how good the talent at cornerback is. But as it is, you only get a certain number of guys that actually play."

Cuts at the position will be made.

During one of last week's practices, Lewis praised Newman for the way he's so far attacked this round of offseason workouts. The veteran easily could slack off and coast into training camp, but he hasn't.

"That's why he's been such a great pro for so long," Lewis said. "He's got incredible, incredible athleticism and intelligence. He's a kid at heart. He's just been a marvel and a great asset to this football team both on the field and off the field and intrinsically within the room with what he does, always mentoring players, whether it's at his position or other guys about the NFL in general."