IRVING, Texas (AP) -Terence Newman came into the NFL with sprinter's speed, the kind that can produce regular appearances on highlight reels.
Yet in his fifth season as a cornerback and occasional punt returner for the Dallas Cowboys, Newman has rarely provided the must-see clips of, say, Deion Sanders. Newman was more of a reliable guy, the kind that quarterbacks choose not to challenge if they can help it.
Without many chances to show his skills, and without any TDs on the chances he did have, Newman developed sort of a niche profile. He's valued by the Cowboys and their fans, but not so recognizable to the masses - until the last two games.
Newman thwarted a potential go-ahead touchdown drive for Washington with an interception at the 12-yard line with 1:39 left last Sunday, then helped Dallas bury the New York Jets on Thanksgiving with an interception that he returned 50 yards for a touchdown.
Finally, in his 73rd career game, Newman had the first defensive TD of his career.
``It was just an opportunity to make a play. I had to capitalize on it,'' he said. ``I finally took a chance and jumped one, and it paid off.''
Newman has been a mainstay on Dallas' defense since arriving in 2003 as the first pick of the Bill Parcells era. He further endeared himself to the coach with his dedication to his job, especially offseason training. He's considered among the team's strongest players.
Still, it's his incredible speed that creates opportunities. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was thrilled to see him take off and not get caught against the Jets.
``It's just a little reminder - we saw it with Deion - that when the offensive coordinators we face in the future realize (No.) 41 is over there, they start hedging a little bit, going the other way from him,'' Jones said. ``When those kind of things start happening, that gives our defense another advantage. That's the kind of impact guy he is.''
Cowboys fans have wondered for several years why Newman has never made the Pro Bowl. He might get his first trip to Hawaii this year because he's among the marquee players on a team that's 10-1 and tied for the best record in the NFC.
He could really improve his chances with a big game Thursday night, against Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers (10-1).
Dallas' secondary has been considered the weak link, in part because Newman and projected starter Anthony Henry have rarely been in the lineup together.
Newman was slowed early by a tear in the plantar fascia at the base of his foot, then had to deal with tendinitis in a knee. He missed the first two games, then came off the bench in the next two. He's started ever since, partly because Henry was lost to a high ankle sprain in Newman's second game back. The Cowboys have brought him back slowly, a luxury Newman didn't have.
``I just think I'm getting a little more confident dealing with the injuries,'' Newman said. ``I've been out playing and practicing, so I know what threshold I have, what tolerance I can take.''
Newman's first interception of the season came in his first start, on a Monday night against Buffalo. When he broke into the open, he seemed headed then to his first career TD.
Newman went a career-best 70 yards, but it wasn't enough. He got caught from behind by Bills receiver Lee Evans. Yes, the three-time Big 12 sprint champion was caught from behind, partly because of Evans' speed but mostly because Newman still wasn't at full speed.
When Newman snagged the pass intended for Jerricho Cotchery of the Jets on Thursday, no one came even close to catching him.
``He's back,'' defensive captain Bradie James said. ``It definitely helps. It's potential impact for a big play any time a team is throwing the ball.''

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