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In a defense that has seen turnover at nearly every position, Antoine Bethea is the "iron man"

Intro: At such a physical position, it might be hard to fathom that Antoine Bethea hasn’t missed a start since the 2007 season. Bethea, his teammates and head coach talk about what No. 41 means to the Colts defense.





INDIANAPOLIS— The last time Antoine Bethea did not run out with the Colts starting defensive 11, Andrew Luck was a junior in high school.

At 81 consecutive starts, Bethea holds the longest active streak in the NFL at the safety position.

Teammates marvel at such a number and Bethea also holds it in high regard knowing that he has always been penciled into the Colts defense for the last five years.

"It means a lot," Bethea says. "Being able to step out on the field week-in and week-out, having my team depend on me, my coaches just knowing that I'll be there week-in, week-out, it means a lot to be able to go out there and be on the field every Sunday."

For cornerback Greg Toler, hearing the 81 straight starts number is mind-boggling.

Toler has battled injuries in his five NFL seasons (missing 24 games) and has been impressed by not only the durability of Bethea but also his leadership qualities.

"He's going to be there when his number is called," Toler said of his fellow secondary member. "From his eating regiment to lifting weights, he just shows on Sundays that he's consistent and he's going to consistently be out there.

"Antoine is definitely a lead by example type of guy. You just try to follow a guy like that. You get in his hip pocket, bug his brain about everything that he has seen because he's seen a lot in eight years. I like having him out there with me because he's a coach on the field. If I ever have a question at a drop of a dime, he will have the same answers the coaches will."

Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has opposed Bethea several times over his 15 NFL seasons.

Now that Hasselbeck is inside of the Colts locker room, he's seeing a different side of Bethea.

"I knew (Bethea) was a real solid player, a pro that was going to make plays and always be disciplined. What I didn't know necessarily is the kind of leader that he is in the locker room," Hasselbeck says.

"That's something that is very, very evident. He's clearly got the personality to be a great guy in the locker room, a great team leader."

The only current Colts defender who has called Indianapolis home for longer than Bethea is outside linebacker Robert Mathis.

There's no hesitation in Mathis' voice when he calls Bethea an "iron man" and "ultimate professional".

Last year, Bethea received the Ed Block Courage Award, which was voted on by his teammates and given to one player on each NFL team that represents role models of inspiration, sportsmanship and courage.

Bethea's play on the field continues to be a vital component of the Colts defense.

The two-time Pro Bowler has recorded over 100 tackles in each of the last five seasons and on Sunday he had 11 stops prior to his game-sealing interception.

"(Bethea) runs the whole show back there with that whole secondary," Head Coach Chuck Pagano said earlier this week.

"Starting as many games as he's started just speaks to his toughness, durability, his will to be out there week-in and week-out for such a long period of time. He's a really, really good football player, smart football player. We're lucky that he is as durable as he is and we have him every Sunday and we can count on him."

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