Antoine Bethea has been around so long he not only knows the answers, he can anticipate the questions. And so, the newly signed Giants safety, a 14-year veteran, realizes fans are still stinging from the loss of Landon Collins, who was allowed to walk out the door and leave for the Redskins.
“They should be upset,’’ Bethea said Thursday as he officially signed his two-year deal. “Landon is one of the best safeties in the league. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler and played well for the Giants. He’s very confident in his play. I’m very confident in my play as well.’’
There is plenty of play to evaluate with Bethea, as he has appeared in 193 NFL games, with 184 starts, and is so old (34) he broke in as a rookie in 2006 as a teammate of Peyton Manning and credits Manning and former Colts Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark — all since retired — for teaching him how to be a professional. Now Bethea gets to share a locker room with another Manning, Peyton’s younger brother, Eli.
“A champion, being the leader of this organization for a long time and can still make all the throws,’’ Bethea said of Eli Manning.
Signing a player with so much tread on his tires is always a risk. Bethea started all 16 games in 2018 for the Cardinals and played nearly every snap. The Giants are convinced he has something left to give.
“Obviously, having some longevity in this league is something a lot of people can’t say, and I hold that close to my heart,’’ Bethea said. “I still feel good. If I didn’t feel good, I wouldn’t put myself in a situation to go out there and put bad film out there. I still believe in my play, I still believe in myself, I still believe I can go out there and play at a high level. So, that’s what I expect to do, that’s what I expect out of myself.’’
Bethea will form a new-look safety tandem, with Jabrill Peppers, 23, arriving in the trade that sent Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns. It will be quite a duo, with Peppers, entering his third NFL season, 11 years younger than Bethea and no doubt leaning on the experience of his new backfield partner.
In Arizona in 2017, Bethea played for James Bettcher, the Giants’ defensive coordinator, and called this move “a fresh start for me.’’ Reuniting with Bettcher is a plus.
“Me playing in that system, and having some success in the system, those are some of the things that kind of piqued my interest of being able to come out here and play for the Giants,’’ Bethea said. “Obviously with Bettcher being familiar with me playing in his system, just what they were looking for. I just think it was a mutual partnership where they wanted me to come in, and I wanted to come in.”