Justin Bethel understood the goal. “Going in I knew I needed to play well on special teams,” he said.
The rookie sixth-round draft pick knows he’d have a tough time making the team just as a safety. But he was a special-teams demon in college and showed it Sunday against the Saints. He whiffed on one of his early attempts but made an impressive tackle as a punt gunner — blowing past two blockers to bring down the return man just as he caught the ball — and the came off the edge, a la Patrick Peterson, to get a hand on a 54-yard field-goal attempt. At one point, he even told special teams coach Kevin Spencer he would block a punt too, if he had been given the chance.
On the blocked field goal, Bethel wasn’t on the outside and tried to get a teammate to switch. He was turned down, but a timeout was called and Spencer made the move anyway. “I was like, ‘I’ve got to go get it now,’ ” Bethel said. “I just wish I could have gotten it a little more so I could have tried to pick it up, but a block is a block.”
Bethel’s abilities create a lot of options for the Cards. Would his work mean it was less likely to keep special teams ace Michael Adams at cornerback, or might the Cards keep both and punch up what analyst Ron Wolfley likes to call the “transition game.” It’s Bethel’s only option to the active roster, because it’s hard to see him breaking into the safety rotation soon.
“I wanted to show up on special teams,” Bethel said. “We have great safeties. Kerry (Rhodes), Adrian (Wilson), Rashad Johnson and James (Sanders). I know if I can make the team on special teams it will give me time to mature and learn, where they can trust me not only on special teams but defense, making the right calls and making the right plays.”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, James Sanders, Justin Bethel, Kerry Rhodes, Michael Adams, Rashad Johnson, Ron Wolfley, Saints
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