Antoine Bethea is the anchor, a guy who will make sure the defense has its stuff together on the field.
The veteran safety is the guy who will be there for his teammates if they have an issue, football or otherwise. He’s the guy who will face the cameras and the questions, whether the Cardinals pull out a win, are steamrolled during a loss or need someone to take the attention after a teammate has requested a trade.
“I want people to be able to depend on me, regardless of the situation, good or bad,” Bethea said. “Someone who is accountable. Being a veteran guy, a guy who has seen a lot in the league, I do relish that role.”
Bethea has been on all sides halfway through his 13th NFL season. He won a Super Bowl as a rookie with the Colts, and some of those years with Indianapolis, the Colts were 8-0, or 9-0, or 10-0, rarely tasting defeat. He also started one year 0-14 with Indianapolis, and hasn’t been to the playoffs in his four full seasons since leaving Indy. The 49ers were transitioning from a good to a bad team once he arrived there for three years, and the Cardinals have struggled this year after going .500 in 2017.
The key, Bethea said, was advice he and other Colts players got under former coach Tony Dungy. Dungy told his guys that regardless of a win or loss, he didn’t want to tell by the players’ demeanor what the outcome had been. Even-keeled has worked for Bethea since.
“I’m pretty good at not letting it drag me down, because at the end of the day, regardless of what it is, we are in a blessed situation,” Bethea said. “To be in here with a great group of guys and a great coaching staff, to play a game, and get paid well for it -- in the big scheme of things, it’s great
“People are going to be looking at you, people are going to seeing how you react. I always keep that in my mind.”
That’s not all Bethea keeps in mind. In 2015, his mother fought breast cancer. He has had close friends go to prison, only to get out and struggle trying to readjust to life – a big reason Bethea was one of the Cardinals players to meet with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey about prison reform earlier this year.
“There are people out here dealing with real issues,” Bethea said. “I know there are guys around the league, guys in this locker room, when they are here (playing), this is their getaway. You’ve got to keep this in perspective. You can’t let (football) take you places where you are in a dark hole, because it could be a lot worse.”
Bethea isn’t sure how much longer he will play. He is under contract through the 2019 season, and while he has some other businesses, he did say he’d like to remain close to football in retirement. Coaching likely isn’t it, he said, but perhaps in personnel or as a television analyst.
For now, Bethea still helps on the field. Bethea became a key factor in Sunday’s win over his former team, when – after coming out of the game with an injury – he subbed back in just in time to stop San Francisco quarterback C.J. Beathard inside the Arizona 5 to open the fourth quarter. It kept the Cardinals within two scores, allowing for a rally.
Defensive coordinator Al Holcomb said Bethea is “that veteran voice” that gets players in the right spots and allows them to play fast. But for the other players, that voice extends beyond what gap to fill or player to cover.
“He’s one of those guys I can depend on for anything, really,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “He’s very matter of fact. He’s not going to sugarcoat or beat around the bush. You need players like that.”
Bethea was one of the players Peterson talked to about his frustrations and subsequent trade request after the Denver loss – and Bethea was a guy willing to absorb the media spotlight when some teammates would rather not step into that sticky breech.
Whether it’s Peterson’s career or maybe fellow safety Budda Baker asking for tips on how to handle a bunch formation or anything else, Bethea just wants his teammates to know he’s available.
“I was always like, ‘You need someone to talk to, man, I’m here to listen,’ ” Bethea said. “I feel like I’m a good friend. I’ll listen but then I’ll tell you the honest truth. I’ll tell someone, ‘You need to get your (expletive) together.’ Everybody needs that in their life, and regardless of where we are at, sometimes I’m that guy.”
HOLMES RETURNS WITH PRACTICE-SQUAD MOVES
The Cardinals made a pair of practice-squad moves Wednesday, bringing back tight end Gabe Holmes – who was released from the active roster Tuesday – and also signing former Patriots defensive lineman Vincent Valentine. Valentine was a 2016 third-round pick of New England. To make room, the Cardinals cut defensive tackle Pasoni Tasini and tight end Andrew Vollert from the practice squad.
Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders during the Week 8 matchup vs. San Francisco