IRVING, Texas (AP) — The enduring image of cornerback Terence Newman's nine seasons as a starter in Dallas was getting hurdled by a fullback in a season-ending loss to the New York Giants that kept the Cowboys out of the playoffs.
His release didn't come until two months after the Cowboys finished one of the worst seasons of pass defense in franchise history. It might as well have been that cold night in New Jersey last January.
"I pretty much figured it was coming," said Newman, who was dumped to avoid an $8 million hit against the Dallas salary cap.
Nine months later, Newman is having a much better season with the Cincinnati Bengals and gets a chance Sunday to play the team that drafted him fifth overall in 2003. He will also see one of his replacements — rookie Morris Claiborne, who was taken at No. 6, the highest pick for the Cowboys since getting Newman.
"A person can be bitter all they want, but it's not going to change anything," Newman said. "I mean, I'm happy, playing pretty well, winning football games, so that's my No. 1 focus. There's no reason for me to be bitter. It's months and months after the fact."
Still, the ending wasn't pretty for a player who started 131 of his 133 games and had 32 interceptions in Dallas, tied with linebacker Lee Roy Jordan for seventh in franchise history.
There were several moments last season with Newman at the center of an ugly moment for a secondary that needed an overhaul. The worst was Giants fullback Henry Hynoski looking like an Olympic hurdler when he took a short pass in the open field and jumped over a flailing Newman, who had ducked to try to make the tackle. The Giants threw for 331 yards without an interception in a 31-14 win that started a Super Bowl-winning run.
Dallas went home with a defense that allowed 3,903 passing yards, just 25 shy of the record from 1983. The Cowboys had a new coordinator in Rob Ryan, but the lockout gave him little time to install his complicated, attacking style. Newman, meanwhile, battled hamstring, neck and toe problems and became the target of opposing offenses.
"You think it was tough on Terence Newman? It was worse on me," Ryan said. "But Terence gave me everything he had. He played hurt. I think he needed a change of scenery. I think we needed change of scenery."
The Cowboys released Newman the day before they signed Brandon Carr from Kansas City when free agency opened. Carr got a five-year deal for $50 million, about half of it guaranteed. Moving up eight spots to take Claiborne completed the overhaul, but statistically the Cowboys aren't significantly better in the secondary. They're on pace to allow more than 3,500 yards, and they have just five interceptions, well off last year's pace.