Justin Bethel wants to be a cornerback, but will still shine on special teams regardless
Justin Bethel has been to a pair of Pro Bowls, reaching the NFL’s All-Star game due to his special teams prowess.
Though he would like to emerge as a cornerback in the league, excelling on special teams is something the 24-year-old is proud of.
“For me, it’s always just if I’m going to be doing it, I might as well just being the best at it,” he told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday. “I’ve done special teams since I was in high school, basically.”
Essentially, there really hasn’t been a time when Bethel wasn’t a factor on special teams. He said he figured making an impact there would help him land a job in the NFL after the Cardinals took him in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Presbyterian.
“I saw that I was going to be able to be really good at it, so knowing that I probably wasn’t going to get to play as much defensive back because of the great backs we had,” he said. “I was like, you know, I’m just going to go out there and do my part and do everything I can to help the team win.”
He’s done that.
Coaches often talk about the importance of special teams, citing it as a crucial part of every game. While most fans usually think of its impact in terms of returners and kickers, Bethel — whose main jobs are to come off the edge in an effort to block field goals as well as serve as a gunner on punts — has proven to be one of the most valuable special teams players in the entire NFL.
In 2014, he finished with 18 total special teams tackles along with one forced fumble and a blocked kick. The block, which came against the Dallas Cowboys, was the third of his career.
But this season, while Bethel would like to prove he is more than a special teams ace, there are no plans to make special teams a thing of the past. He pointed to safety Rashad Johnson as someone who played safety while also helping out in kick coverage, so if that’s what the coaches want him to do, he’s ready. The only difference, he said, would be needing to be in even better shape to handle the increased snap count.
It’s part of the reason he is confident the coaching staff will give him every opportunity to step up and earn a job as a cornerback.
“Just to see if I can do it,” he said. “If I can do it I could be another great asset for the team and, maybe, hopefully, be able to stay here longer. And if not, I’m still a great special teams player.
“So they kind of have a win-win.”