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.
Dallas is the only team in the league without a player who has at least two interceptions.
"I've got guys I know in that secondary that I have a lot of respect for, so it's not funny at all," Newman said. "You never want to see your guys get criticized or not perform well or lose games. From that standpoint, I'd love to see my guys do well."
Except for this week, of course. Newman leads the Bengals in pass breakups and intercepted Peyton Manning twice in the same game, bringing his career total to 34. He's fifth on the team with 58 tackles and is right on the pace of his career high of 77 with the Cowboys in 2010.
"Terence was a really, really good player for this team for a long time," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. "I told him when I talked to him, 'You're going to be playing for a long time and just keep doing what you're doing.' I have so much respect for him as a guy, what he did for the organization. He's playing very well right now."
Newman said he's in Cincinnati in large part because the defensive coordinator is Mike Zimmer, who was in charge of the Dallas defense when Newman was drafted. Because Zimmer grabbed him so quickly, Newman didn't really have a chance to lament the end of his Dallas days.
Besides, the Kansas native and former Kansas State star still calls Texas home. He knows what he'll be doing this coming offseason — playing golf with Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher.
"I think when my career is done, I will look back and say, of course a lot of people say 'I wish I would've done this better or done that better,'" Newman said. "But at the end of the day, I'm where I'm supposed to be obviously, and I'm content with it."
Online: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lschuylerd