Colts' mini-camps end as Bethea signs 4-year deal
The Indianapolis Colts ended their last spring mini-camp with a flourish Friday.
Hours after the team's final spring practice, Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea finally agreed to a new four-year contract. Now the Colts know Bethea will report to training camp on time, and it clears up one of the contract disputes that kept three players from attending the team's offseason activities.
``It's a big burden off my shoulders,'' Bethea said. ``Getting a new contract does not mean I will slack, it just gives me more motivation to play well.''
Neither the team nor Bethea would give financial details of the contract, and Bethea's agent, Adisa Bakari, did not return a phone message or e-mail left by The Associated Press. ESPN.com reported the deal was worth $27 million.
That would be a major upgrade from the $2.521 million one-year tender that had been on the table since March, and Bethea barely beat a Tuesday deadline that would have allowed the Colts to reduce the amount of the tender.
The Colts had hoped to get this done long ago.
One day before April's NFL draft, team president Bill Polian said he expected Bethea to sign his contract soon. Though it took nearly two months for the five-year veteran to put ink to paper, the Colts were just happy they've gotten one of the contracts finished.
``It's been a long process that probably tried their patience at times, but it's gotten us to a good place today,'' general manager Chris Polian said.
Now Indy can concentrate on getting some other contract issues resolved, starting with four-time league MVP Peyton Manning. Team owner Jim Irsay has called Manning's contract the top remaining offseason priority.
Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne and Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis have also been holding out in hopes of redoing their contracts.
Bethea was the Colts' sixth-round pick in 2006 and has started 59 games in four seasons, including 32 in a row. He has 446 career tackles, 11 interceptions and has topped 100 tackles in three different seasons. He played in the Pro Bowl in 2006 and was selected again last season.
Bethea was not required to attend the offseason team activities until he signed, and he waited until hours after the Colts completed their final offseason practice.
``You always want to be out there on the field,'' Bethea said. ``But at the same time, this is the business part of it and you have to handle that as well, and I think both sides did handle it well.''
A resolution for Wayne and Mathis could be more complex.
Both have two years left on their current deals, and Bill Polian has repeatedly said it will be tough to get anything done with Mathis or Wayne because of the uncertain labor situation. There is no salary cap this year, and no collective bargaining agreement to help Polian structure contracts for 2011 and beyond.
So coaches and players will wait to see if they report to training camp on time Aug. 1.
``I'm sure whatever decisions he (Mathis) needs to make, that's up to him. He's his own guy,'' Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney said last week. ``Whatever decision he makes, we're OK with that. I love having Robert around, but we also understand that this is a business. As long as he's there come the season, that's what matters.''
Aside from Bethea's new deal, not much has changed since the Colts first held a three-day rookie camp in late April.
Former first-round pick Anthony Gonzalez was still standing on the sideline Friday. Freeney, the former league sacks champion, didn't practice because of lingering stiffness in the right ankle he hurt during the AFC title game. And the rookies are still trying to work out the kinks.
``I think I have a ton of work I still need to do,'' said linebacker Pat Angerer, the Colts' second-round pick. ``I've been able to improve here each day, and guys here have taught me a lot, but there's still a lot of work to do.''
Which is why the team complex will be bustling for the next seven weeks.
After wrapping up his second summer as the Colts head coach, Jim Caldwell and his assistants are planning to take a short break from football. Caldwell's first stop: Seeing his two grandchildren.
Back on the west side of Indianapolis, though, players will continue running, lifting weights, working on timing and doing drills at full throttle.
And now Bethea plans to join them.
``I don't really think I have a lot of catching up to do,'' he said. ``It shows what they think of you to extend the contract to me. I'm blessed, I'm happy, being one of those core guys.''