There aren’t too many players left in the NFL from the Peyton Manning/Bill Polian era in Indianapolis, and there are only two remaining with the Colts: Adam Vinatieri and Anthony Castonzo. One of the more prominent players from that era still playing in the NFL, however, was released today by the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers announced this afternoon that they have released safety Antoine Bethea after three seasons with the team. Bethea told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that he actually requested it. "I asked for my release,” he said. “I think it was a better fit for both parties. I want to take some time to explore my options" He added that, “I still got some ball left in me.”
Bethea spent three years with the 49ers and started 39 games, recording 240 tackles, two sacks, five interceptions, 15 passes defensed, and two forced fumbles. He started all 16 games in both 2014 and 2016, and he recorded a team-high 110 tackles last year. He made the Pro Bowl as a member of the 49ers in 2014.
“Antoine is a true professional in every sense and I have a great deal of respect for the way he has gone about his business throughout his career,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said in a statement released by the team. “We would like to thank him for the positive impact he has had on this team both as a player and as a leader, on and off the field. We wish Antoine, and his family, great success in the future.”
Bethea, of course, has a long history with the Colts. They drafted him in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft (with a compensatory pick, as a matter of fact) and he wound up as their starting safety for the next eight years. He started 123 games and recorded 806 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 46 passes defensed, 14 interceptions, and five forced fumbles. He didn’t miss a single game from 2008 through 2014, starting an amazing 119 straight games before an injury in 2015. He was truly as reliable and durable as they came, and he was a very good player too. During his time in Indy he made two Pro Bowls (making three total in his career) and was a first-team All-Pro in 2009. He recorded over 100 tackles in five of his eight seasons with the Colts and at least 90 in all but one season with Indy.
It sounds like Bethea wants to continue playing, and while a reunion with the Colts is probably unlikely, it’s still noteworthy that the longtime Colts safety will be looking for a new home this offseason as the 49ers continue their rebuild.