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Justin Bethel: Contract extension is life-changing

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel, right, breaks up a pass intended for St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
LISTEN: Justin Bethel, Cardinals cornerback

He’s only 25, but Justin Bethel is already regarded by many as one of the best special teams players in the NFL. Now he has the contract to show for it.

The 2012 sixth-round pick out of Presbyterian signed a three-year, $15 million contract extension with the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday, with $9 million guaranteed.

“This is definitely life changing and it’s a blessing,” Bethel told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Tuesday. “It’s kind of hard to explain it, you know? Getting to that second deal is what a lot of people try to get to.”

The two-time Pro Bowler for his work on special teams has played in every game since joining the Cardinals in 2012.

“I did it all through high school, when I got to college I was a full-time starter and I started on every special teams, so I kind of think it’s engrained in me to go out there and do it full speed.”

While not many players embrace their spot on special teams, Bethel said it’s his mentality that has set him up for success.

“You’ve got to want to do it. If you go in there kind of half stepping it and not really trying to protect yourself, not trying to get too tired, all these other little things, I don’t think you’ll be able to be great at it.”

The 2015 season has been his best yet. Through twelve games, Bethel has made a career-high 22 tackles, completed his first interception which he ran in for a pick-6 and totaled seven pass deflections.

His contract extension both rewards the success he’s had on special teams and sends the message that Arizona has faith in what his future looks like at cornerback.

The Cardinals have gotten to see more of Bethel in that role this season as Jerraud Powers has missed time with a calf injury.

In Sunday’s 27-3 victory over St. Louis, Bethel made his second start of the season at cornerback and recorded four tackles and two pass deflections.

“The last couple games I’ve had to start at corner with Jerraud being down,” Bethel said. “I still have my same roles on special teams. Whatever they feel they need me to do and whatever is best for the team, I’m going to do it.”

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