Justin Bethel disagrees with Bruce Arians' 'failure in progress' label

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Three-time Pro Bowl gunner Justin Bethel didn’t agree with his coach’s assessment last week that he’s a “failure in progress” as a cornerback and said his subpar season has been due to the lingering effects of a foot injury he initially suffered in 2015.

“For me, I think this year was just a year to get back healthy and come back next year,” said Bethel, who began transitioning to cornerback last season and was slated to have a starting corner job opposite Patrick Peterson this year.

Bethel lost the starting job to rookie Brandon Williams in training camp after missing the first three weeks of camp. He told ESPN that last week was the first time this season he felt “kind of normal” and has been able to practice without pain.

A little more than a week ago, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians dropped a powerful criticism of Bethel’s transition to cornerback.

“It’s a failure in progress,” Arians said on Dec. 12.

Bethel downplayed the comment because, to him, this is a season he’s had to spend getting healthy.

“I didn’t really pay no mind,” Bethel told ESPN. “He’s a guy who’s going to say what he feels. He said what he said. We’ve talked about it. It is what it is. I haven’t been playing good. It is what it is, really.”

Bethel disagreed with his coach’s assessment, saying his injury hasn’t allowed the type of progress healthier players have made this season.

“I don’t think any player would ever say, ‘Oh, I agree that I’m a failure in progress.’ I’ve been hurt so I haven’t been able to do anything,” Bethel said. “I look at it as, this was a year I just kind of had to get healthy. Most guys are working on technique and trying to get better. For me, it’s been let’s get you healthy and get your body healthy right where you can actually start doing stuff because if you’re hurting it’s hard to anything technique wise.”

Bethel had surgery in April to repair a fracture in his left foot that he initially suffered during the 2015 season. He was on track to return for training camp in late July, but suffered a setback three weeks before he was due to report. He missed the first three weeks of camp and said Tuesday that he reinjured the foot during camp after he “probably did a little too much.”

And it’s been bothersome ever since.

“It’s one of those things that takes a while to heal when you’ve got to play every week and you’ve got to practice every week,” Bethel said. “It’s not something that just heals as fast as it probably would if it was the offseason and I wasn’t doing nothing on it. It’s getting better now. I think it’s almost there. I’ve been feeling a lot better the last couple weeks.”

He’s played 144 defensive snaps this season and 88 have come in coverage.

Bethel described this season as “frustrating” and said he’s been working on getting ready for next season. But Tuesday night could bring an uplifting moment if he’s selected to his fourth straight Pro Bowl on special teams.

Bethel’s year on special teams has had its highlights, such as the blocked extra point against Minnesota, as well as its low points, such as his offsides penalty Sunday that negated a go-ahead field goal. But Bethel understands his run of Pro Bowls could end and chalked it up to his injury-plagued season.

“I haven’t played as good,” Bethel said. “There’s a lot of tackles out there that I wish I could’ve got back, especially in the beginning of the season. And the way I played this past week, the offsides, definitely not like me.

“We’ll see what happens. If I do get in, it’s an honor and a blessing I take pride in it. If not, I can understand. I haven’t played to how I usually play.”