Antione Bethea was introduced by the New York Giants on Thursday as one half of the club’s new safety tandem. The 13-year NFL veteran was signed as a free agent on Wednesday to a two-year deal at an undisclosed amount.
Betheawill join third-year pro Jabrill Peppers, acquired in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, in the middle of the Giants’ secondary this year as part of the plan to replace All-Pro safety Landon Collins, who departed via free agency this week, signing a five-year, $84 million contract with the Washington Redskins.
The 34-year-old former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion was asked what drew him to the Giants in free agency.
“I think it was a fresh start for me; some familiar faces,” he said. “Obviously, (Defensive Coordinator) James Bettcher being the ‘DC,’ and me playing in that system, and having some success in the system. So, those are some of the things that kind of peaked my interest of being able to come out here and play for the Giants.”
Bethea played for Bettcher in Arizona in 2017 after beginning his career in Indianapolis and then moving to San Francisco. He came to the Giants who are in the throes of retooling for the future, but like general manager Dave Gettleman, realizes you can win while building your club.
“No, it’s not a rebuilding team,” said Bethea. “At the end of the day, we have to go out and play on Sundays. Regardless of the names you have on paper, you still have to go out there and perform. You get a good nucleus, some good guys that can work together. Obviously, the league year just started. I know upstairs, they’re doing what they need to do to build a great team. As players, our job is to come out there and put our best performance, our best foot forward and put the best product we can put on the field.”
In replacing Collins, he knows he’s up against some ill sentiment as Collins was a fan favorite but he’s seasoned enough to get past that.
“ should be upset,” he said. “Landon is one of the best safeties in the league. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler and played well for the Giants. Myself, I know Jabrill would say the same thing — he’s very confident in his play. I’m very confident in my play as well. So, we’re going to come in here, we’re just going to do what we need to do, what know what we need to do, and just come out there and play at a high level.”
Bethea won’t be alone out there. He has the talented Peppers to team up with. They can both play strong or free safety and offenses will not be able to decipher which player will be at what position on each play.
“Good young safety,” he said enthusiastically when asked about Peppers. “Being a fan of the game and playing the safety position, you look across the league and see what other guys are doing, looking at his play the first two years, he’s been doing some great things. Even looking at him when he was at Michigan, very versatile, can do a lot of things — play in the box, play back in the post. I’m excited to play alongside with him.”
Bethea also said he great respect for Eli Manning. He was once a teammate of Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and won the Super Bowl as a rookie there in 2006.
“ a champion, being the leader of this organization for a long time and can still make all the throws,” he said of Eli. “Having Saquon (Barkley) back there running the rock, obviously that’s going to help him out a lot. Happy to be a part of this organization, happy to be one of his teammates. I’m excited to see where he can lead us.”