INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – All things being equal, Antoine Bethea wouldn’t mind being on the West sideline at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday afternoon.
That’s where the Indianapolis Colts are stationed.
That’s where Bethea used to call home. He was a 2006 sixth-round pick of the Colts, and someone who greatly exceeded expectations.
Sunday, the veteran safety will be walking on the opposite sideline. The Arizona Cardinals’ sideline.
After the 2013 season, Bethea’s eighth with the Colts, general manager Ryan Grigson opted not to re-sign him. He went on to spend three productive seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, including a third Pro Bowl selection, before another relocation to the Arizona Cardinals this offseason.
Bethea clearly has moved on, but nonetheless wonders how and why it happened.
“I still don’t know to this day what their thought process was because they never really had a conversation with me,’’ Bethea said during a Thursday appearance on the Query & Schultz radio show on FoxSports 97.5. “That was the only thing I was sour about, just the way management went about it.
“It was the end of my contract and I definitely wanted to stay in Indy, but Ryan Grigson wouldn’t talk to my agent, didn’t talk to me. I talked to my agent and he said, ‘He’s not taking my calls so I guess we need to look elsewhere.’
“I didn’t think my time in Indy would end that way, but it is what it is.’’
Bethea was one of the franchise mainstays Grigson inherited in 2012. He started 123 of a possible 128 regular-season games and was named to two Pro Bowls. He was a key figure as the Colts advanced to two Super Bowls and won Super Bowl XLI.
Contributing to the Colts’ decision not to retain Bethea was offering free-agent safety LaRon Landry a four-year, $24 million contract that included $14 million in guarantees after the ’13 season. Landry was a bust and is out of the league.
Grigson was fired in January.
Bethea, 33, is in his 12th season.
“When (Grigson) first got there, the relationship was cool,’’ Bethea said. “I guess that was his way of doing business in the end.
“I wish it would have went over differently . . . the town, the team . . . I still have love for.’’
Bethea undoubtedly will reminisce with his former teammates prior to the game, and it won’t take long. The only ones still with the team from 2013: Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Adam Vinatieri, Anthony Castonzo, Darius Butler, Vontae Davis and Jack Doyle.
- Many more returns: We’ll just call it Reunion Sunday.
Other Cardinals returning to Indy are coach Bruce Arians, assistant head coach Tom Moore, backup quarterback Drew Stanton, center A.Q. Shipley and running back Kerwynn Williams.
Arians was the Colts quarterbacks coach from 1998-2000 and offensive coordinator/interim head coach in 2012 while Moore was the team’s offensive coordinator from 1998-2010.
Stanton served as Andrew Luck’s backup in 2012, Shipley appeared in 29 games and started 10 in 2012 and ’14 and Williams was the Colts’ 2013 seventh-round draft pick.
- Medical update: Six players have been ruled out of the game: Luck (right shoulder), Davis (groin), Butler (hamstring), center Ryan Kelly (foot) and inside linebackers Antonio Morrison (elbow) and Anthony Walker (hamstring). Wideout Chester Rogers (hamstring) is questionable.
- Hooker gets first start: First-round draft pick Malik Hooker should be in line for his first start. It’s almost by default with the injury to Butler.
The only healthy safeties are Hooker and Matthias Farley. When the Colts use a third safety, it’s likely T.J. Green, who started at cornerback last Sunday in Los Angeles.