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The way most Cardinals insiders saw it, Justin Bethel had the inside step on the starting cornerback job opposite Patrick Peterson, although he’d clearly have to win the position battle outright from second-year pro Brandon Williams.

Coach Bruce Arians, however, threw a giant plot twist into that theory on Sunday during his daily news conference with reporters.

“It’s wide open,” Arians said. “It’s wide open.”

Williams won the job out of training camp a year ago as a rookie, primarily because Bethel fell behind due to a lingering foot injury that never really allowed him to compete on a level playing field. Williams then lost his spot when the team decided to bring in a veteran, Marcus Cooper, who since has signed with the Bears.

Arians said both Bethel and Williams will alternate starts once preseason games begin and that the winner of the competition – whomever it is – likely won’t be announced until the Cardinals make their final roster cut down to 53 players.

Although Bethel said he expects to win the job, he knows the decision isn’t his to make.

“I think we’ve both been working really hard in the offseason, and it’s just one of those things where we both know our skill-set and we just want to go out there and play the best that we can,” he said. “At the end of the day, let the coaches do what they want to do and just know that either way, both of us need to be prepared to start at any time.”

There remains a possibility that General Manager Steve Keim could still bring in a veteran to compete against Bethel and Williams – as he did last season with Cooper. That may only happen if there is an injury, or the two presently engaged in a hunt for the spot both show signs of faltering.

“This year, being healthy, I’m coming in with the mindset that I want to be the starter,” Bethel said. “And I’m sure he has the same mindset, too.”

Williams, a former running back while at Texas A&M, said he’s never been more confident in his abilities. He said he’s drastically improved his technique, especially in press situations where he is at his best, and that all the time off the field he has put in with Peterson, the perennial Pro Bowl corner, can only help him get better.

“I’ve been doing it all summer. I didn’t go home this summer. I stayed out here this whole summer doing repetitive work and just working on my craft,” he said. “… I don’t look at this like a competition. I look at it as he’s going to do his job, I’ll do my job and we’ll both go out there and dominate.”

Ditching the brace

Wide receiver Jaron Brown, who underwent ACL surgery in November, has come along so far in his rehab and recovery from major knee surgery that he plans to ditch his knee brace at some point this week or next.

“I’ve been kind of transitioning without it for the last month or so and it’s felt great without it,” he said. “Personally for me, I feel like I obviously move a lot more fluid without the brace. It’s really more of a mental thing than anything.”

When Brown sustained the injury, there was immediate comfort in knowing that torn ACLs aren’t the 12- to 16-month recovery process they used to be. It’s also helped that he has several teammates around who have gone through the same ordeal, including fellow receiver Chad Williams, quarterback Carson Palmer and safety Tyrann Mathieu.

“I feel good. I feel real good,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited to practice.”

Extra points

  • Rookie running back T.J. Logan showed his incredible speed in each of the first two days of camp, which drew praise from Arians. Logan, who has run a sub-4.3 second 40 yards dash, will be looked at as a kick and punt returner as well as a receiving threat in addition to a backup role as a running back. “He popped out of their (Saturday) twice,” Arians said. “Just continue doing that and you’ll find a role. We never knew what David’s (Johnson) role was going to be that first year, but he took a kickoff back 100 (yards). You’ll find places for ’em.”
  • Arians on first-year safety Budda Baker, the team’s second-round pick out of Washington: “He looks like a damn rookie.”

Reach McManaman at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac and listen to him live every Wednesday night between 7-9 on Fox Sports 910-AM on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash.

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