EAGAN, Minn. - When the Minnesota Vikings kick-off their regular season opener, September 9th against the San Francisco 49’ers defensive back Terence Newman will be 40-years young, the second-oldest position player in the NFL, behind only New England Quarterback Tom Brady at 41.
I’m assuming that Newman will make the Vikings team this fall (which is remarkable in itself) and to be on the field, playing against young men who for the most part are half his age, is almost inconceivable.
It’s been done before, but usually only by quarterbacks, kickers and punters. According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s ‘Over 40 Club’, the only other defensive back who played in the NFL past age 40 was former Washington cornerback and Pro Football Hall of Famer Darrell Green.
Like Green, Newman has played the corner for the bulk of his career, but in the current Vikings mini-camp Newman has been lining up at Strong Safety in the absence of the injured Andrew Sendejo. In fact Newman actually practiced Wednesday wearing Sendejo’s number 34 rather than his customary 23.
Newman at safety is either an experiment or position shift (the Vikes aren’t saying) which makes sense for several reasons. While more than serviceable on the outside, Newman brings a wealth of experience to the safety position, where his size gives him the ability to not only enforce the run but also allows him to contend with balls in the air on passes thrown to bigger receivers.
At age 40 Newman might not play with the physicality of Sendejo, but his savvy and experience give the Vikings something of a QB on defense, and a player who’s unlikely to be fooled by whatever the opposition can conjure-up.
Defensive Coordinator Geirge Edwards says Newman is a great influence on his younger teammates. “He’s a great example, especially for the young guys. Hey, the more that you can do, the longer you’re going to be able to stick around and help us win football games.”
Early Returns on Hughes Are Positive
The other reason the Vikings are trying Newman at safety is the early emergence of top draft pick Mike Hughes.
Like Newman, Hughes is getting action at various positions in the Vikings secondary. Unless something happens to starting cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes or Trae Waynes, Hughes figures to be playing in the slot, a position that was manned by Newman and Mackensie Alexander a year ago.
If the Vikes were in love with Alexander they wouldn’t have gone after Hughes in the first round of this year’s draft. But, if the Vikes missed with Alexander (the jury is still out on that one) the early returns on Hughes are strong indeed.
Hughes plays with a swagger and appears to have a short memory, which is good when you're playing the corner. Hughes gave up a deep pass to Stefon Diggs early in Wednesday’s practice but recovered to break-up two passes intended for Jake Wieneke, and another targeting Laquon Treadwell.
The slot job is Alexander’s to lose or Hughes' to take, and based only on the small sample size we have to this point, I would not be surprised to see Hughes start week-1. September is a long way off and many things can (and will) happen before then, but Hughes sure looks the part.
He’s "One of Us”: Volume 2
Did you know that Vikings wideout Adam Thielen is from Minnesota? I’m not sure, but I think I heard that during one of the games last season. ABOUT A THOUSAND TIMES!!!
Sure the Thielen story is a great one: Detroit Lakes to Minnesota State Mankato to the Vikings. The odds against it have to be astronomical, so it couldn’t happen again, could it?
Perhaps. There’s something of a Thielen clone wearing number 15 at mini-camp, and he bears watching. Wideout Brandon Zylstra comes to the Vikings after leading the Canadian Football League in receiving yards last season with the Edmonton Eskimos.
A native of Spicer, Minnesota, Zylstra played at Concordia-Moorhead before becoming an All-Star in the CFL. At 6-2 and 215 lbs. Zylstra is the same height, and 15-lbs heavier than Thielen, and it sure sounds like he’s made a sizeable impression on Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo.
“That guy continues to impress”, said DeFilippo. “He’s a big, strong guy, people are going to have a hard time getting up in his face and pressing him. He has tremendous hands, he’s smart. He’s one of the guys that can line up anywhere, we could put him anywhere. We’re very fortunate he’s on our football team."
As with Hughes, it’s early and the sample size is small but Zylstra may give NFL announcers yet another “hometown boy makes good” story to share this fall.
Anne Donovan, a true pioneer in women’s sports, passes at 56
When I was a little kid and first allowed to participate in pickup sports in my White Bear Lake neighborhood, Liz Jaksa was the best athlete around. Whenever teams were being picked I hoped Liz would pick me because I knew her team was going to win. I’m not proud to admit that I dissolved into tears more than once upon being passed over and cast to the losing side.
In school I turned the tables. Whenever I was captain my first or second pick was always Shalagh Delaney. Besides hoping to score points with my long-time unrequited love interest, Shalagh tipped the balance of power in both soccer and floor hockey because she not only LIKED to play goalie, she put the net on lockdown. That allowed my team to have one more boy at forward. I tell you this because I truly didn’t care what sex you were, I just wanted to know if you could play.
Born in 1963, I came of age in the 70s when women’s sports (fueled by Title 9) were just starting to take root, if not gather momentum.
When I wasn’t playing sports I was consuming them on TV, by reading the sports page and constantly hanging out at the local high school, White Bear Mariner, so I could watch whatever team of ‘Dolphins” happened to be in action that day.
I truly didn’t care if it involved girls or boys, I just wanted to watch sports.
My early heroes were Jamie Gremore, who backstopped the Mariner hockey team before taking his talents to the University of Wisconsin; Dave Morin, who rode his bike wearing ankle weights before leaving to play tennis at the University of Minnesota; and Maureen “Ernie” Donlin, who was both the best basketball and softball player at Mariner.
TY sports was just becoming a “thing”, and while the bulk of what was televised was men’s sports it was also the time when women’s sports were also coming on to America’s collective radar.
That’s how I discovered Anne Donovan. Just a year older than me, Donovan teamed with fellow superstar Nancy Lieberman to take a tiny school called Old Dominion and turn it into a college basketball superpower.
Lieberman was the heady guard, capable of scoring from anywhere, while Donovan controlled the paint. At 6 foot 8 Donovan was dominant inside and when she was determined to go to the rim it didn’t matter if you were from UCLA or Russia... you weren’t going to stop her.
Deprived of the opportunity to play on her first Olympic team by the 1980 boycott of the games in Moscow, Donovan led team USA to Gold Medals in both 1984 and 1988. She also coached team USA to a gold medal in 2008.
In between Donovan did play five seasons of professional basketball, but that was in Japan so we didn’t get to see it. Anne did make several coaching stops in the WNBA, leading the Seattle Storm to the title in 2004.
I remember being at a Lynx game in the early 2000s and watching her walk by as I waited in the bowels of Target Center. It was just like when I met Dr. J, you want to go up and tell them how much you love them and how much they meant to you growing up, but you don’t because you’re afraid of coming off like a stalker and being rejected.
I found out this morning that Anne Donovan dies yesterday of heart failure at age 56, and I am truly heartbroken. If they were to have a ‘Mount Rushmore’ for women’s sports in America I’m not sure if Anne Donovan would make it... but I know damn well she’d be on mine.
Thanks for the memories Anne. You were a true pioneer and while you will be missed your impact was real and your legacy is eternal. Right now I truly regret not having gone up to you tell you to tell you how much you meant to me.
World Cup Play Begins
One has to wonder with North America winning the bid to host the World Cup in 2026, will any of the games will be played in the Twin Cities?
The last, and only time the United States played host to the World Cup was back in 1994, with both Chicago and Detroit hosting games. One would hope with Minnesota's history of hosting world class events (most notably the Super Bowl and the Ryder Cup, both of which are considered to have been successful and highly profitable) the Twin Cities would merit consideration as a host site.
Sixteen teams will be added to the field in 2026, meaning there is a better chance that Team USA may actually make the field. The U.S. wants to host 60 of the 80 games scheduled for 2026, which would leave 10 each for Mexico and Canada, but FIFA President Gianni Infantino has suggested the split of games could still change.
With an MLS team now located here and with U.S. Bank Stadium newer and at least on-par with what Chicago or Detroit has to offer, you’d have to think that we’ll be given strong consideration.
As for this year’s World Cup make no mistake, these are Vladimir Putin’s games. The betting favorites are Brazil, who last won in 2002, at 7-2, and defending champ Germany is 4-1 at the Westgate sports book. Next on the odds list are Spain and France at 13-2, followed by Argentina at 13-2 and Belgium at 11-1.
The host country’s team isn’t expected to do much but like I said, these are Putin’s games. If your country’s team is playing Russia I wouldn’t let it come down to a call by the referees.
Hear more Vikings from Tim in his bi-weekly podcast "McNiff's Huddle" below:
On a mobile device, go here: https://mcniffshuddle.podbean.com/