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Reunited at last: Ravens' Tony Jefferson helps ex-teammate Justin Bethel land in Baltimore

Justin Bethel signed with the Ravens because of who he has become: a special teams standout with significant cornerback experience.

But he also signed with the Ravens in part because of whom he knows.

In a conference call with local reporters Tuesday, Bethel recalled how safety Tony Jefferson, a former Arizona Cardinals teammate, called him Friday morning, wondering why the free agent was playing hard to get. Or at least hard to reach.

“I'm pretty sure everybody knows how aggressive Tony Jefferson likes to recruit,” Bethel joked, referring to Jefferson’s habit of targeting potential Ravens on social media. “He actually called me ... and was like, ‘Ey, our guys are trying to get in touch with you. Are you ignoring our calls? We haven't heard back.’ And I'm like, ‘Man, I haven't heard anything.’ ”

The Ravens didn’t have his new phone number. But by day’s end, the former Atlanta Falcon and three-time Pro Bowl selection (all on special teams) had a new NFL home in Baltimore.

“It happened really fast,” he said after officially signing a two-year deal Tuesday. When he’d moved on from the Cardinals, he’d had to wait until late April before signing with the Falcons last year.

Bethel, who did not take a defensive snap last season with Atlanta, said he expects primarily to contribute on coverage teams for new special teams coordinator Chris Horton.

Longtime coordinator Jerry Rosburg, 63, who announced Friday that he was stepping down from his post to retire, was revered by players for his precision and passion in coaching. Horton, 34, is almost half his age. Bethel noticed.

“It's different because he's so young,” said Bethel, 28. “I don't think I've had a position coach as young as him or a special teams coach as young as him. I'm excited to work with him. When I was talking to him, it almost feels more like I'm talking to a big brother than a coach.”

Bethel said he’s willing and able, if called upon, to contribute in the Ravens’ deep secondary, but he knows his role. The former sixth-round pick has played on special teams since high school, seeing over two-thirds of the special teams snaps for every NFL team he's been on. That was part of Jefferson’s pitch to Bethel: Come join a team coached by John Harbaugh, a former special teams coordinator himself. Help a unit that takes pride in its standing as one of the league’s best.

“I always try to tell guys that special teams, it might not be the prettiest thing, but it's something that can help your career last a lot longer if you weren't playing,” Bethel said. “Because it gives you a chance to stay in a program, show that you're valuable in that area and let them say, ‘OK, this guy can grow here, and while he's doing this, he can grow into other positions.’ "

jshaffer@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jonas_shaffer

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