Truth be told, those who play for the New York Jets are not unaccustomed to being booed in their own stadium. Most often, however, that’s from their own fans because of the quality of the product that they put on the field. On Sunday, at least one member of the team expects to get a special reaction from what he anticipates to be a large contingent of fans from the visiting team.
That would be running back Le’Veon Bell, who is facing his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, for the first time after he held out during the 2018 season and then signed elsewhere in unrestricted free agency this offseason.
Bell told the Associated Press that he expects Steelers fans to be well-represented on Sunday when they are hosted by the Jets in the penultimate week of the 2019 regular season. He also said that he expects to get a mixed reaction from them after he spent five seasons playing ball for them.
“I think it’ll probably be 50-50”, he said of the reaction from the fans that he anticipates, half of them cheering him, half of them booing. “I think it’ll be half that are happy to see me and still love me, and half that hate me, despise me. It is what it is”.
Bell was once a fan favorite, though for some, a hesitant favorite. Stemming from two suspensions as one factor, and his occasional dubious remarks complaining about his workload and things of that nature, then rapping about his salary demands, the All-Pro strained his relationship with many fans.
His on-field work could hardly be denied, however. He totaled 7996 yards from scrimmage during his first 62 career games, averaging more yards per game through that point in his career than any other skill position player in NFL history.
He rushed for 5336 yards with 35 touchdowns while with the Steelers, adding another 2660 yards on 312 receptions and seven more touchdowns. A three-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro (twice first-team), there’s no doubt that he was one of the leading talents at his position.
He hasn’t had near that sort of production this year, but he’s not worried about it, believing his performance goes beyond his numbers. “Stats don’t really show how well I’ve been playing”, he said. “Regardless of the stats, I don’t really care what people think. I know I’ve been playing very good football and I’m continuing to get better”.
He also told reporters that he doesn’t have any regrets with how things ended with the Steelers over the course of the past few seasons, starting with contract negotiations and ending with his giving an interview after signing with the Jets that took some shots at his former organizations and certain members therein, including Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben won’t be playing, but he will be in the stadium. I wonder if that will come up.