Say what you will about former coach turned commentator Rex Ryan, but one thing that he was always able to do over the course of his career was to get his players to want to play for him, and part of that was having an understanding of his locker room and the dynamics therein.
So I thought it was interesting when he weighed in on the Pittsburgh Steelers as it relates to running back Le’Veon Bell and how the two sides see each other right now. “Half the guys in the locker room don’t want this cat in there”, he said. “I promise you that”.
I think a lot of us have already come to that assumption at some level, but I think it’s more notable to hear that take from somebody who has been in that locker room on multiple levels, and who even had a reputation for being a player’s coach, who probably has a better read on the situation from a personal standpoint than most.
Bell has little more than a day before he will officially be unable to play this season, which would in all likelihood conclude the Steelers chapter of his career. Ryan’s guess is that a large percentage of his teammates—or former teammates—are completely fine with that based on how he handled his contract situation.
As all of us who followed it along every step of the way know, his teammates were pretty much universally supportive of him until the day that he failed to show up for the first official regular season practice of the year heading into the season opener against the Cleveland Browns.
After that, several notable teammates lashed out in frustration one after another. While tempers and attitudes have cooled since then, eased greatly by winning games and stellar play from James Conner, the prevailing tone right now seems to be one of indifference, just ready for it to not be a story anymore.
I can’t ever recall another situation like this, a will-he-or-won’t-he back and forth going on for years that has resulted in a sort of battle fatigue, not just for the fans, but even for the player’s teammates, among whom there is a general understanding that you never comment on another player’s money.
Even some of the players on the team closest to Bell ended up breaking that unwritten rule, most notably Ramon Foster, who noted how much more money he is making than all of the men who block for him, though especially himself, all while being concerned about injuries.
As a reminder, Bell’s franchise tag value this year was worth more than Foster has made in his entire 10-year career. And yet what he wants is to win the Super Bowl. Even among millionaire athletes, Bell’s decision has left some confused, even annoyed, over how he could choose to walk away from almost $15 million and a year out of a game he claims to love.