There were several losses for the San Francisco 49ers in 2015. One of the more significant absences from the field was veteran safety Antoine Bethea. Not only was his professionalism and intelligence missed, but his leadership in the secondary is something that cannot be easily replaced.
Bethea is back to his normal routine with his offseason preparation including lifting weights. He hasn't changed his routine with Chip Kelly at the helm, because he's seen this scheme before, when he was in Indianapolis under DC Greg Manusky.
Bethea is already back to being one of the more vocal players on the field, not that there was any doubt it he would quickly return to form. During 11-on-11s he was calling out plays and taking charge in the secondary. His experience is recognized by all of the young defensive players as well as the veterans. Eric Reid talked about what he brings to the team:
He just sees every thing and he sees it fast. You see a formation and he lines up and he's already calling stuff out and I'm looking at him like, alright, and then they do what he says! He just has that experience.
Reid reported that Bethea incline bench pressed 245 and that Reid was the nervous one.
Bethea understands that the 49ers are a young team but sees a lot of talent in the meeting rooms. He doesn't see any clear standouts amongst the rookies yet, but he sees the competition as something that will bring out the best in the entire team.
Bethea also likes what Chip Kelly has brought to Santa Clara. He heard things about his new HC coach outside of the building but waited to interact with him in person to make a judgement call. So far he likes what he sees.
Bethea spoke to the media during OTAs. You can watch the full video here.
How are you feeling?
I'm feeling good.
Are you back to normal?
Yeah, back to normal. Rehab went great, I'm back to you know, lifting weights and back to my regular routine.
Are you doing anything different because you're playing opposite a Chip Kelly offense?
No. I think, for me, it's the same approach. I've been in this defense once before so that kind of helps the situation as far as the tempo and everything. At the end of the day I just think that going against Chip Kelly's style of offense is just going to help everybody else once the season comes, but for me, regular approach.
When were you in this type of defense?
My last two years in Indianapolis I was in a very similar defense.
Who was the DC?
It was [Greg] Manusky. He kind of brought some things over from Chuck Pagano in Baltimore so it was kind of a hybrid of two different systems but very similar.
Would you say this scheme is complex?
No. I think everyone is getting the hang of it pretty good. It's complex but the way they're teaching it, they way we're implementing the defense, the way we're talking out there, you know, we're having some mistakes but you learn off your mistakes. I think the young guys, they're doing a great job so far.
How would you characterize this team?
We do have a young team. I think we have a pretty good mixture as leaders in each room, myself, Eric [Reid], Tramaine Brock in our room, NaVorro [Bowman], Quinton Dial, so with the young guys in each prospective room, those guys gotta look up to the veterans and the veterans gotta do a good job of leading.
Do you like this group of young guys?
Yeah, it's a good mixture. We've got some guys in there to keep us on our toes, laughing and joking and we have some serious guys so it's a great mixture.
Coach Jim O'Neil has been described as fiery. Does he have a youthful energy?
He definitely does. They way he's in front of the room and when he's teaching. You can definitely see he's stern but he does have that energy that we need. Even out there on the field, he's smiling, he's running around, talking trash. Pretty sure our defense can feed off that as well.
With all of the new young guys, do you feel a responsibility to be a teacher and mentor on the field?
Yes, when I need to be. You can't be a teacher and a mentor at all times. I'm still a kid too, a kid of the game. I love to go out there and play but when it's time for those guys to come to me and ask questions or if I see somebody doing something that maybe I could give them a pointer or two, that's when I do that. Mental teacher when I need to be.
Did you have any skepticism towards Chip Kelly? Has he done anything to win you over?
You know, you hear things the media. I'm always a firm believer I want to see for myself and I love what Chip is doing for our group. Just everybody is flying around out there having fun. I've spoken to him on a one on one basis and so far, man, I appreciate what he's brought in.
Does it mean a lot to you that he's in the defensive meeting room a lot?
It does because he's an offensive guy. A lot of times in other places I've been, a lot of head coaches stick their head in the room from time to time but he's in there a lot, probably because he already knows what's going on in the offensive room. That means a lot.
How do you see the secondary shaking out? It there some talent there?
There's a lot of talent. It's going to be very competitive. A lot of guys are doing a lot of good things. Like coach O'Neil says and coach Hafley says we're going to get our best players on the field. Whether that's five DBs, six DBs, whatever the case may be, this is the time of year that you can play with that and see who is doing what. We have a lot of talent in our room and like I said, come training camp, even here in OTAs there's going to be a lot of competition.
Is it easy or tough to tell at this point?
It's tough. Right now it's tough.
We just talked to Rashard Robinson and he mentioned the his biggest adjustment is the speed of the game. How's he been doing?
Oh, he's doing good. Young guy coming to the game, especially going against Chip Kelly's type of offense, that's going to be one of the main things for him, just the speed of the game, but he's doing good. As a young player, I think the most important thing is to just go out there and work hard. Work and get in the film room, study and know the playbook.
Of the the three guys competing to play next to NaVorro, are they drastically different, since you've played behind them before?
I don't think so. I don't think they are drastically different. I think it's going to come down to who makes the most plays. [Michael] Wilhoite has played a lot of good ball for us, Ray Ray [Armstrong], he's a great player and Gerald [Hodges] is as well. It's all about competition.
Eric Reid said it astounds him how quickly you make reads on the field. Who else can keep up with you mentally?
Eric. Eric, NaVorro, Tramaine, there's a lot of guys actually. There's a lot of guys in the back seven, there's a lot of guys who can, as far as verbiage and terminology, that can spit it out, WIlhoite [too]. That's what we need. We need everybody to be able to be out there and talk the same talk and the same verbiage so we can be on the same page.
What WRs have stood out to you so far?
I would say right now Bruce Ellington is having a great offseason. He's moving well, catching the ball, putting himself in a position to get a ball in his hand. Jerome Simpson, I can kind of go down the line with guys on that side of the ball doing a lot of good things.
Rashard Robinson said he likes to talk. Do you ever feel like you have to reel him in or do you just let him do his thing?
You know as a teammate you want a player to be himself on the field. For me, being the older guy, if I see him talking and kind of getting out of his game you kind of reel him in but at the end of the day, let him do what he do. If that's the type of player he is, and if that's what helps him perform well, let him do that.
Armstrong is a former safety. Can you see that in his game?
It's funny when we were watching film in our DB room and even our coach said, who is that? He's got good coverage skills, and we told him, yeah, he played safety. So you can definitely see it. Some good feet technique wise. Definitely helps him at the position that he's playing.