ANDERSON –Safety Antoine Bethea is a talented and smart enough player that he started 18 games in his 2006 rookie NFL season.
Fourteen of those outings came in the regular season, and Bethea started four playoff games, the final one being a victory in Super Bowl XLI.
Heady stuff? You bet. How? Because he uses his head.
Bethea has opened 91 career games and 10 more in the playoffs with guile, heart and savvy. He will employ those same instincts today when the Colts have the first padded practice of training camp.
Bethea and his teammates will be playing under the intent gazes of a new coaching staff wanting to gauge a team for the first time in contact and while it still is learning new schemes on both sides of the ball.
Bethea is not a peace-maker, but he wants controlled aggression.
"There's a lot of anxiety. A lot of the guys are anticipating going out there with pads on," said Bethea. "I think it will be fun. (There will be) a lot of banging. At the same time, we have to be smart. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Like we say, 'No cheap shots, mano-a-mano.' You know, live to see another day."
What is it the two-time Pro Bowler hopes to see?
"Aggression. See who is physical, see what type of guys you really have. See what type of guys you'll be out there on Sunday with. You don't want to have a guy out there who will turn down hits, or stuff like that. Today, we'll see what kind of hearts guys have, and we'll build off it from there."
Bethea does not believe teammates will be looking to make a mark at someone's expense. He does not think there will be a tendency to over-hit.
"No. We're all professionals," said Bethea. "We just have to play smart. If a guy eyes you up, you can (hit him). If a guy doesn't see you, just keep on going and live to play the next play. We're all professionals here. At the same time, be aggressive."
This is the fourth day of training camp, the first time pads are permissible per league rules. Though a physical force in the secondary, it is not Bethea's preferred practice apparel.
"No, I'm definitely a 'shorts' guy (laughs). I'm most definitely a 'shorts' guy," said Bethea. You have to get your feet under you. You really just can't come out and start banging on the first day. I think that's a league rule anyway."
The offense will be wearing white jerseys. Defenders are in blue. Three quarterbacks will be in red. Andrew Luck should not run short of luck in the practice.
"Rookie quarterback? He'll be fine," said Bethea. "We can't touch him, so he'll be good."