Deal between Bethel, Ravens came together quickly after early snag

March 19, 2019 | WNST Staff

Justin Bethel conference call transcript

What do you feel like you bring to the Ravens, specifically from a special teams perspective? “I think that I’ll be able to really help, especially on the coverage units, field position-wise. We have a great punter [Sam Koch], and I’m excited to play with him, and I know that we’ll be able to make a real impact in that area of field position. [I’m] just really trying to bring the leadership that I have to the team and just helping this team get better.”

How quickly did this come about, and were the Ravens a team you were sort of eyeing all along, knowing how much they prioritize special teams and how much they’re trying to build secondary depth? “It’s kind of funny how it happened. I’m pretty sure everybody knows how aggressive Tony Jefferson likes to help recruit. He actually called me, I think, Friday morning. He was like, ‘Hey, our guys are trying to get in touch with you. Are you ignoring our calls? We haven’t heard back.’ And I’m like, ‘Man, I haven’t heard anything!’ And apparently, they didn’t have the right number, and so they were calling my old phone number. [Jefferson] gave it to them. Then, from then on, we started talking, and it just felt like the right fit. It pretty much went down in a day, and it happened really fast.”

Were you expecting a deal to happen so fast, or did you feel like you might hang out on the market for a little bit? “Truthfully, I thought I was going to hang out for a little bit. Originally, I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. My previous time, coming from Arizona, going to Atlanta, it was a … I waited a couple weeks. Closer to April is when I ended up signing, and from my experience, that’s kind of what I was thinking.”

What were some of the maybe specifics that S Tony Jefferson said in terms of advantages about coming to this organization? “I think one of the biggest things is just having a head coach who’s really special teams-minded and takes a lot of pride in that, and just saying how [Jefferson] loves it and everything that they’ve done for him, speaking about the workout plan, just in general the whole organization. I’ve known Tony for a long time, and so it really meant a lot, what he said.”

You’ve seen a lot of players with the Ravens become … As special teams players, you see a lot of defensive backs come into that defensive role when they come to the Ravens. How much did that play a role in you coming here to play in Baltimore? “Truthfully, I don’t really always think about that kind of stuff. For me, it’s always … Coming here was just thinking, ‘What is it that I can do to help this team be better, and what is it in me that they see that is needed?’ And for me, I know that special teams is something that I can always help and give an immediate impact to. For me, [it’s about] doing my part there and then being ready for whatever comes next when it comes to defense, just being ready for that, and if the opportunity comes, just taking full advantage of it.”

Is it impressive looking at this secondary with the depth? And then, they just added S Earl Thomas from Seattle … Just to come in here, and you mention opportunity, but it has to be pretty impressive to see how much depth this group has in the secondary. “Oh, yes, 100 percent. It’s always good when it’s like that. It makes guys compete, and like I said, if something ever does happen, you have guys who can come up and fill in without any drop-off and know that you can still play at a very elite level.”

Do you put any additional weight on your shoulders with outgoing associate head coach/special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg announcing his retirement? This unit is going to be under new leadership. You’re probably going to be relied on as a special teams leader. How do you look at that situation? “Not really; I think they did a good job filling in with Chris Horton, and I’m excited to work with him. He’s been in the program, and he knows where this team has been and how they ran things, and I’m interested to see his spin on it and where he wants to lead it. For me, I just want to go out there and help him any way I can and just make whatever he envisions for our special teams, just to bring to pass.”

Have you gotten a chance to meet with incoming special teams coach Chris Horton? “Yes, I actually just had lunch with him. Great guy, and like I said, I’m really excited to see what we can cook up coming into this new season.”

Does incoming special teams coach Chris Horton remind you of any other coaches you’ve worked with in the past? “It’s different, because he’s so young, and I don’t think I’ve had a position coach as young as him. Or, I haven’t had a position coach as young as him or a head coach – well, not a head coach – but I haven’t had a special teams coach as young as him, and I’m excited to work with him. When I was talking to him, it almost feels more like I’m talking to a big brother than a coach.”

You played against the Ravens last year. When you’re preparing for the Ravens, is there sort of a cache that comes with Ravens special teams, knowing how seriously they take it and knowing how they make it a priority and knowing the head coach’s background? “Yes, I think that’s something you have to do, and for me, I always take it as a challenge, when I’m playing against it. When I was with Atlanta or even when I was with Arizona, whenever I played against a good unit, or somebody who was really known for their special teams, I always tried to take it upon myself to be better and be better than anybody that I can go against and be better than the old me that they were watching on film, so that when I get out there, I can just go out there and dominate.”

Were you always a guy who embraced being part of special teams, or did you have to kind of grow into that? And also, what do you tell young guys who maybe have never played special teams before, but will be asked to do so when they get into the NFL? “I’ve always been special teams-minded. It started in high school, and then I got to college. I started every game and started on every special teams, and so, I think that really helped me, because when I got to the league, it was kind of easy for me to transition into playing special teams, because I was already good at it. It was easy just to kind of keep going on with what I had already built up. I always try to tell guys that special teams, it might not be the prettiest thing, but it’s something that can help your career last a lot longer if you weren’t playing, because it gives you a chance to stay in the program, show that you’re valuable in that area, and let them say, ‘OK, this guy can grow here, and while he’s doing this, he can grow into other positions.’ I would never say … Don’t take special teams lightly. It’s a great way to make a team, and it can give you a lot of years to your career.”