It is hard enough to make the transition from college to
the NFL, even harder when a position change is thrown into
Welcome to Justin Bethel’s world.
The Cardinals drafted the 21-year-old in the sixth round
(177th overall) out of Presbyterian College.
Bethel played cornerback for much of his time at the
private liberal arts school in Clinton, South Carolina.
The Cardinals, however, are asking him to play safety.
“Playing safety is not something that I’ve always been
doing,” he said after a recent OTA practice. “I really
just started actually getting to play safety now. I’ve
been playing corner basically all the way up until my
junior year. I really got thrown in to safety my senior
year full time.”
The switch from cornerback to safety doesn’t sound like a
big deal. After all, the two positions are both found in
the defensive secondary.
Yet, Bethel says the transition is much more than just the
10 to 20 yards that separate the two spots on the field.
“I mean it’s a big jump,” said the 2011 Big South
Defensive Player of the Year after totaling 87 tackles,
four INTs and a sack.
“Knowing a lot of corner stuff in college where you don’t
really have to know as much, then going to safety in the
league where I’m now responsible for making all the checks
and making calls and knowing every where everybody has to
be. It’s just something I’m trying to adjust to and get
used to doing.”
Through three weeks of OTAs and a rookie mini camp, Bethel
has opened the eyes of defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi.
“He’s done a good job,” said Cioffi, now entering his
second season with the Cardinals. “He’s in here working
extra, watching film. He asks a lot of good questions.”
According to Cioffi, a learning curve is expected with
Bethel coming from a small school. But his ability to
play multiple positions will only help him see the field
“A kid that has his athletic ability, that’s what we want
him for,” said Cioffi. “We want him to be able to move
inside to the hash and play safety and be able to cover
that third or fourth wide receiver that comes into the
Bethel started 43 of 44 games during his career at
Presbyterian. A run like that with the Cardinals may take
him some time.
“There’s still a lot of things that I need to learn. The
coaches are helping me and the other players are helping
me. I feel if I just keep getting into my books like I’ve
been doing and keep studying and studying it’ll start
coming second nature.
“There’s a lot of things I’m picking up now that I didn’t
know before. It’s getting a little easier every time.”