Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel picks off a pass during minicamp.
When Justin Bethel lost his starting cornerback job last season, he was convinced it was purely tied to his bothersome broken foot.
Now that he’s healthy, evidence is mounting to back up that belief.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians highlighted Bethel for his stellar play throughout offseason work as minicamp wrapped on Thursday, counting five or six interceptions Bethel nabbed over the past few weeks.
Bethel seems to have the inside track on the starting cornerback job opposite Patrick Peterson heading into training camp, as he showed well in off-coverage drills, getting his hand “on a ton of balls,” Arians said.
“He didn’t practice for two years on that broken foot,” Arians said. “That’s the best news, that he’s healthy. He’s been struggling with that foot for two years. He looks extremely healthy right now, knock on wood.”
Bethel can’t be penciled in as the starter yet, as Arians needs to see how he does when bump-and-run coverage is added to the equation in training camp, where contact with receivers is allowed. But after a turbulent 2016 and a subsequent paycut this offseason, Bethel was ready to show he was a legitimate option at cornerback.
“I don’t think my confidence ever went down,” Bethel said. “I knew that I was hurt. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to play to the fullest of my abilities with the injury that I had in the short time I was trying to recover.”
Bethel said he’s not getting caught up in the depth chart as the season draws closer.
“Truthfully, I don’t think about it,” he said. “And if you ask any of the other guys, you’re going to play like you’re the starter. I think that’s the kind of confidence you have to have when you go out there. … I think we have a good competition going on of guys trying to make each other better. I don’t think it’s like, ‘I’m doing something so I’m not going to help this guy.’ If I see something that I think can help another guy, I’m going to do that, because at the end of the day, we’re a team, and you’re as strong as your weakest link.”
BUCANNON EXPECTED TO START ON PUP
Money linebacker Deone Bucannon (ankle) isn’t expected back until September, so it’s no surprise Arians expects him to begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list. However, Bucannon is making progress.
“He’s way ahead of schedule, so we’re hoping we can get him out there quickly,” Arians said.
Center A.Q. Shipley (core surgery), wide receiver Jaron Brown (knee), defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (hamstring), linebacker Markus Golden (foot) and wide receiver John Brown (hamstring) are among the other notable players dealing with injuries, but Arians doesn’t think anyone else will start on the PUP list.
THE RETURN OF BUDDA
Second-round pick Budda Baker missed offseason work beyond rookie minicamp because his college, Washington, is on the quarter system and doesn’t have its commencement until this weekend.
Baker will arrive in Arizona next week and can stick around for rookie development while the veterans scatter for the summer. Arians said Baker has “a ton” of catching up to do, “but that’s one of the reasons we’ll have all of those seven-on-sevens with the young guys.”
Images from the third and final day of minicamp