NFL First Person: Week Four

By Antoine Bethea
Updated: October 1, 2006

NOTE: This past week, former Howard University standout Antoine Bethea, along with four other players, was nominated for the NFL’s Rookie of The Week award. His efforts on defense (a team-high eight solo tackles and four assisted tackles) helped the Indianapolis Colts defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars in a tough divisional game at the RCA Dome.

Each week, BASN will focus on the plight of the ex-Bison standout. Antoine will give our readers a brief glimpse of the NFL though the eyes of a rookie player. This week, he’ll talk about Indy’s win against the Jaguars and their return trip to the Meadowlands against the Jets. This journal was submitted prior to their battle with the Jets.

INDIANAPOLIS — Sunday’s game was by far the most physical game of the season. Jacksonville is a big team that hits hard and just flys around the ball all the time. We knew what to expect going into the game. All week in practice, the coaches were saying to us “Bring your big boy pads!”

While many folks may regard the Patriots as one of our biggest rivals, when it comes to head-to-head competition Jacksonville stands out for us because of their physical play.

Even though we’ve been successful against them (winning four of the last five meetings), our veterans put them (the Jaguars) in the same regard as a Cincinnati or a New England when it comes to the AFC’s top teams.

For me, the turning point of the game Sunday was Terrence Wilkins’ punt return touchdown early in the second quarter. It tied the game at the time and it gave us a real spark.

Being a part of that play just added to the excitement. I was one of two blockers assigned to target the opponent’s main gunner. Gunners are members of the special teams who specialize in racing down field to tackle the kick or punt returner.

They usually line up to the outside of the offensive line and are often double teamed by blockers. In this case, myself and another cornerback were the designated double teamers.

The main thing we must do focus on is to maintain our blocks. It’s something that is stressed by our coaches and must be performed everyday in practice. We try to provide a hole for the kick returner so he can break it.

What really happened on the return is that everyone maintained their blocks and Terrence avoided the first two tacklers. Once he broke through, we just tried to keep ourselves in front of him so we could lead him to the end zone.

I was really glad for Terrence because his story has been very inspirational. He began his career with the Colts a few years back (1999) and had been out of the NFL for the last two years.

He got a chance to make the team as a kick returner and punt returner and he’s done a great job for us. There are a lot of great stories like his in the NFL and it great to be a part of that.

Again, I have to salute our fans as well for Sunday’s win. I really can’t say enough about our fans here at the dome. They cheering for us from start to finish and it really gets us fired up. They’re really rapid fans here and it’s a great atmosphere to play in front of them.

This week, we go back to Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands. This time we’re playing the Jets, but for the most part it will be business as usual. We get into town on Saturday and stay at the same hotel that we were in when we played the Giants.

It’s not so much superstitious as it is just trying to maintain the same routine that we’ve had for all our road games. You just want to do the same things we did when we came down here before. Most importantly, you want to come in here and win again.

It’s been nearly a month into the regular season and i feel that my NFL experience has been everything I thought it would be and more. From preparing for the week’s game and actually being on the field, the whole atmosphere has been a great time for me.

I really think it will be get better and better as the year rolls along