SANTA CLARA – Antoine Bethea was interviewed outside of the 49ers’ locker room Friday afternoon. Here is a transcript.
Q: Do you feel like you’re catching on to the scheme?
BETHEA: Yeah, most definitely. Coming into OTAs, you’re just trying to get your feet wet, get a good grasp on the defense. Now I’m more comfortable with the defense, so out on the field I can let my eight years of experience take over and become more vocal out there.
Q: Is this scheme dramatically different from what you’re accustomed to?
BETHEA: It’s not – the past few years, what I was doing in Indy. But the verbiage is different, so just learning the terminology and being able to vocally express what I want to do on the field and express to my teammates what I see. The main thing is getting the verbiage and terminology down.
Q: What has been your first impression of Jimmie Ward on the practice field?
BETHEA: Like a lot of guys were saying on the sideline, he’s always around the ball. That’s one thing you see on film of him in college – making plays. And then yesterday, making a good interception. But as a rookie, he’s trying to get his feet wet as well. For him, it’s just taking things in from the coaches and the veteran players, and just transferring it over to the field.
Q: How important is experience for a cornerback?
BETHEA: That Nickel position, as you can tell, over the years in the NFL it has become one of the most critical positions on the defense. It is experience. It’s studying film. It’s knowing where your help is. Once he gets more playing time, once he understands the defense more, where he has his help, he will be much better.
Q: What do you want this secondary to be known for?
BETHEA: Always an aggressive secondary and a smart secondary as well. Each coverage, you have your strengths and your weaknesses. To be a secondary where you don’t get beat and you don’t beat yourself, you have to be a smart secondary. If we can all be smart, play aggressive and play together, those are some of the attributes of a great secondary.
Q: Do you think this defense still can be complex with all of the new players in the secondary?
BETHEA: Most definitely. We have some smart players back there. We have Chris Culliver who has played some great football here. Tramaine Brock. Eric Reid – Reid made the Pro Bowl last year. (Perrish) Cox. We still have a lot of great pieces in this secondary. We have availability to do a lot of different things with a lot of great players on the defense.
Q: How much did the team’s reputation for having great defensive players convince you to sign here?
BETHEA: Oh, everything. The front seven – not to take anything away from my previous teammates, but this front seven probably is the best front seven that I ever played with. The past three years this team has been right there. That was one my main things coming to this great organization.
Q: Will it be a challenge early in the year to have new players in the secondary and to not have Aldon Smith or NaVorro Bowman?
BETHEA: This is what the league is for. When guys are out, the next guy has to step in. I think we have the guys in place that can do that.
Q: What strikes you about Eric Reid now that you’re getting to know him?
BETHEA: He’s way beyond his years. Coming into his sophomore season, coming off a Pro Bowl season, just sitting next to him in the meeting room, talking to him, going through different plays, and even out here on the field how he’s vocal, he’s way beyond his years. This coming year is going to be a great year for him.
Q: Does that rub off on Jimmie Ward?
BETHEA: Of course. When I was a rookie, coach always told me: “Look at the veteran guys. Copy what they do. Whatever they do, you should be doing as well.” When (Ward) sees Eric Reid writing in his notepad and asking coaches questions, that’s going to pay off.