Le’Veon Bell lost a lot of fans well before he was even out of Pittsburgh. In fact, he started pretty early on, after he was arrested with LeGarrett Blount following his breakout 2014 season. His subsequent contract disputes with the Steelers and finally his decision not to report to the team—also while declining to inform them of his intentions—left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.
Last year after signing with the New York Jets, for some reason he felt the urge to pile on, leveling some accusations against the organization and against some former teammates, such as Ben Roethlisberger, and suggesting that the Steelers made him feel unwelcome, a characterization that was never corroborated.
Despite all that, he retains a number of ties with his former teammates, and he has had a bond with fellow running back James Conner since before he was even on the Steelers, while he was a running back at the University of Pittsburgh. Their friendship continues to this day, even professionally.
Production manager De’Veon Bollinger, who works with Bell, shared some videos and photos on his Instagram stories yesterday showing the Jets running back working out in Florida, and many of them also feature Conner working alongside him.
Bell was drafted in the second round in 2013, and he was immediately plugged in as a starter, emerging as a first-team All-Pro by his second season. In the year in which they first applied the franchise tag in 2017, the Steelers drafted Conner in the third round.
The two sides failed to reach terms on a contract that year, but Bell still reported, and Conner served as his backup, getting in a limited amount of work as a rookie, before ultimately suffering a knee injury late in the year that landed him on injured reserve.
The 2018 season featured more of the same, only this time Bell did not report, and Conner, who had dedicated himself to his rehab and reported in great shape, was prepared to enter the spotlight and become the lead back. In 13 games, he amassed roughly 1500 yards from scrimmage with 13 scores and was named outright to the Pro Bowl.
Many of Bell’s teammates were livid with him at the time, at least at the start of the season, with even some of his closest allies like Maurkice Pouncey calling him out in the media on the last day that he was allowed to report while being eligible to play for the season opener. They all expected that he would show up. He had never told anyone otherwise.
But he didn’t show up, and he continued to not show up week in and week out, while dropping communication with almost everybody short of Conner, with whom he didn’t discuss his situation. But Bell got what he wanted, presumably, and Conner got a starting job. In 2021, it will be his turn to cash in.