FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Head coach Ken Whisenhunt said Saturday it was a “safe bet” there would be a spot on the 53-man roster for Justin Bethel.
The sixth-round pick, however, refuses to go all in.
“He hasn’t told me personally,” Bethel said following the team’s walk-through Monday morning. “And I prefer him not to.”
Bethel, drafted 177th overall, blocked both a punt — which he returned 19 yards for a touchdown — and PAT against the Raiders last week at University of Phoenix Stadium. He now has three blocked kicks in three preseason games.
“I really don’t even like the whole thing about people saying you are already on the team because I don’t want it to seem like I can just stop working,” Bethel said. “Because that’s not the case. I’m going to keep working hard, keep going out there trying to make plays.
“I still got a point to prove that I can play and make plays.”
Making plays — especially on special teams — is something Bethel has a knack for doing. At Presbyterian, he set a Big South career record with nine blocked kicks.
“I don’t know. It’s hard to explain,” he said when asked why he’s so successful. “I just run. I know where I’m suppose to go. I think I’m so confident in that I just know what I’m suppose to do. I believe in my ability to get to where I’m suppose to be at and I think that’s why I can make plays.”
Bethel knows — despite what Whisenhunt has already said — the one way for him to standout, make the team and contribute as a rookie is on special teams.
“I do put a lot of preparation in it,” he said. “[But] I don’t want to let it overtake my defensive responsibilities. I’m just trying to balance it and get all the work I can at both.”
The Cardinals list Bethel as a safety but are also getting him some snaps at corner.
“It’s coming along,” Bethel said of his defense. “I had a long way to come. There’s a lot for me to learn.
“I’m learning the playbook. I think I’m going to be able to eventually help on defense while still making plays on special teams.”
Bethel has certainly raised the bar there.
“I plan on keep raising it,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”