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Special Teams Standout Justin Bethel Ready For Opportunity As Defensive Back With Ravens

March 29, 2019
Justin Bethel and Tony Jefferson were teammates for four years with the Arizona Cardinals and are reuniting this season with the Baltimore Ravens.

Bethel, a three-time Pro Bowler as a special teams standout, signed with the Ravens earlier this month on a two-year deal. Jefferson recruited him to Baltimore, which Bethel said did help make the decision on where he would play this season easier. 

"It was a pretty big part," Bethel said on Glenn Clark Radio March 27. "... First off, I know him, so being able to go somewhere where you know somebody, that kind of helps. I feel like it'll be easier getting into the defense and learning my way around when there's somebody there that I know… I've gotten to know Tony over the years and we've become good friends. There's a lot of things we connect on so I felt like it was the right move for me."

Bethel isn't just Jefferson's friend, though: He's one of the best special teams players in the NFL and has been labeled a special teams ace at his previous stops. Although the seven-year pro knows his success on special teams has earned him his accolades and offered him longevity in the league, a reason why he signed with the Ravens is because of the opportunities he'll get as a defensive back.

"I could tell they really wanted me here and they did say that, like Tony was telling me, they play a lot of DBs and you'll get a chance to go out there and play and make plays," Bethel said. "And for me, just having the chance and being able to get an opportunity, whatever it may be, is all I could really ask for."

Bethel has blocked four kicks and compiled 88 tackles while also forcing four fumbles and recovering three, all on special teams. Now, Bethel wants the opportunity to prove himself as a defensive back as well.

"… As a competitor, you want to be able to further your career and be able to do more," Bethel said. "Sometimes you get labeled as 'all he can do is play special teams' and sometimes that kind of sucks, but it comes with the territory and you just gotta keep working to show what you can do, and that's kind of what I've been trying to do over the years." 

Even though last year's defense enjoyed a lot of success, it's experienced some turnover this offseason, with linebackers Terrell Suggs, Za'Darius Smith and C.J. Mosley and safety Eric Weddle all leaving. In response to that, the team signed six-time Pro Bowler Earl Thomas and extended some of their homegrown players in addition to signing Bethel.

Even with the defense losing four starters from last year, the secondary looks to be in good shape with the additions of Thomas and Bethel. The two newcomers and holdovers Jefferson, Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr create a very impressive unit. Thomas' prior experience with the Seattle Seahawks' "Legion of Boom" brings up the question of whether or not the Ravens will bring something similar to the NFL this season.

"You never wanna try and be somebody else," Bethel said. "But I would definitely say [the Ravens are] trying to create something special and I think all the guys will attest to that. They wanna start something special here and take this team as far as we possibly can."

To hear more from Bethel, listen to the full interview here: