Mandatory minicamp began for several teams yesterday, among them the New York Jets, which just so happens to be the new team of former Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell. It is the first real meaningful appearance that he has made with the team after skipping all of their OTA sessions. And if you can believe it, he had plenty to say after showing up.
In spite of the fact that he didn’t do a whole lot. According to reports, Bell only took all of 11 reps in his first practice with his new team, even though he said that he wanted to take more. For what it’s worth, Rich Cimini Tweeted that he was “looking a bit lost” standing on the sidelines holding a football during the middle of practice.
That didn’t stop him from speaking with a great deal of confidence about his future after practice. “It feels so good not doing it for a year”, he told reporters. “It was amazing just running around. Trash talk. Catching some balls. Sweat in your helmet. Things we kind of take for granted when you are playing. But the fact I had the whole year off and came out here and played, it felt so good”.
Of course, he didn’t have a year off. He elected not to play under a one-year minimally-negotiable contract after he and the Steelers failed to agree to terms on a long-term agreement by the July deadline last summer.
They reportedly offered him a five-year contract averaging up to $15 million per season, with a $10 million signing bonus and a $10 million roster bonus due days later for effectively $20 million fully guaranteed. Instead, he signed a four-year contract with the Jets in March worth $52 million.
In terms of the backlash he has gotten and people’s expectations for him to struggle, Bell said, “maybe a lot of people forgot [what I can do] because they haven’t seen it” in a while. “It’s normal. That’s what humans do. Once I go out and play the first game, people will be reminded”.
During his final season for the Steelers, he rushed for 1291 yards on 321 carries, averaging slightly under four yards per carry. He scored nine touchdowns on the ground and two in the air, catching 85 passes for 655 yards, averaging 7.7 yards per catch, which was the lowest averaging for a season in which he played more than six games.
Nevertheless, he has high expectations for himself and for the Jets this year, and what his impact is going to be on his new team. “I picture this scheme being amazing for me. It’s a lot of opportunities I never had before”, he said, noting the offensive weapons around him.
Of course, that statement is complete nonsense, given that the led the league in touches—also known as opportunities—with the Steelers while playing with an All-Pro wide receiver, another who would become a Pro Bowler, and a future Hall of Fame quarterback. While he complained about his workload.
Bell went on to praise second-year quarterback Sam Darnold, saying that he’s “going to make me a better player” because “he’s so mobile and creates opportunities that I never had”. He called themselves “a special duo in the backfield”, even though he was literally part of a special trio known as the Killer Bs.