For as long as Le’Veon Bell can remember, he’s seen every Super Bowl. And when you consider that the 28-year-old has been playing football since he was four, it’s a pretty long series.
This year’s Super Bowl will be different. For the first time, the three-time all-pro running back will play in it, albeit as a backup for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I [was] I always imagined that I would be in the game, ”Bell told reporters on Tuesday. “Now that I’ve been in the league for eight years and I’m finally here, a dream is coming true.”
Bell’s luck with the opportunity showed so much in his media session that if anyone wondered if he had regretted putting the 2018 season out because of a contract dispute with his old team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the answer was obvious on his face .
Still, I decided to ask Bell Tuesday if there were ever times in New York where he wished he had never sat outside this season. While the decision eventually got him to the Jets on a rich new deal, that deal also brought a lot of losses, no lack of drama – then head coach Adam Gase didn’t want him – and an unceremonious release less than two years after the deal.
Le’Veon Bell held up against the Pittsburgh Steelers and also had a chaotic outcome with the Jets. Now he’s about to win the Super Bowl with Kansas City. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
“Oh, no, no – that never crossed my mind,” Bell told me. “I feel like I’m sitting outside. I just have to look at it like it somehow helped me in the backend of my career because I mean when I came back last year it literally felt like I was reset like I was a beginner again. I was so excited to get back on the field and really just get my meetings back.
“And so I don’t know, it’s like resetting my body. I felt like it will really help for the end of my career, the long end of my career. “
Stuck on a bad team in New York, Bell signed a four-year $ 52 million deal through a general manager in Mike Maccagnan, who was fired just two months after his arrival. In 2019 he resumed his normal workhorse role, recording 245 rushes for 789 yards and three touchdowns and 66 catches for 461 yards and one touchdown.
The story goes on
His yards per carry average dropped sharply (from 4 in 2017 to 3.2 in 2019), and the patchwork line and lack of weapons around him didn’t help.
It all came to a head that year when Bell was released in October after playing in just two games, recording only 19 rushes for 74 yards and catching three passes.
Bell had the opportunity to play elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent, including some – like Miami and Buffalo – that would have given him a better opportunity to play more and approach his productive game with the Steelers.
Bell instead opted to sign with defending champions Kansas City Chiefs, who had a rookie draft pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round and another promising young man who ran back in Darrel Williams.
“Those two days have been really tough two days for me, but I made the decision to come here to play with a lot of great players and coach Andy Reid,” said Bell.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, saw Bell as someone who could help with screen play and pass protection as well, where he could make good use of his 6-foot-2,225-pound frame while stepping in as a runner. That is generally what he did. He ranked third among Chiefs trailing a snap percentage at 17.4 percent and third in the regular season at 254.
“I like him as a kid and I like him as a player,” said Reid. “He has this veteran experience. He was the best in the business at what he did, he handled that role well. He loves to play. “
And although Bell’s yards per carry average improved to 4, as it was his last year in Pittsburgh, injuries left him handicapped. After his peak in Week 15 – a 32:29 win over New Orleans that saw him carry 15 for 62 yards and a touchdown, and the game-winning 5-yard run – he was inactive for the AFC Championship with an inactive knee injury , although it is expected to be available for the Super Bowl.
“It’s been stolen a bit – he’s working on it,” Reid said. “He gave us some good games there that we really needed him at, and I’m going back to the game in New Orleans and stuff [him] Put the icing on the cake with its barrel there. During our season he showed really good production of his at important times. “
Bell has brought much of the field to the Chiefs as well, serving as a seasoned mentor to Edwards-Helaire – whom Bell calls a “little brother” – and Williams, who emerged as the Chiefs’ chief workhorse this postseason.
“He came in with the right attitude and I think that’s a plus. It’s something you can learn from when you’re a veteran, because how he approaches the game, how he sees the game, ”said Williams. “Just being able to choose your brain and see the things you see and how you do things, and just your patience – it’s different from seeing it on TV. I’m trying to do that for him. And I could implement that in my game. “
Williams noted that Bell also enjoys being boss, which Bell was keen to clarify on Tuesday.
“Everyone is like family here and that is really one of the first things I noticed when I got here,” said Bell. “I think it’s more of me, like more of my culture, I’m an open-minded guy, I like having fun in the locker room, and that’s exactly what these guys do. I mean, everything is literally fun.
“Don’t get me wrong … we run the business, but we enjoy it. There is a lot of fun, a lot of laughter. This team is definitely one of the best connected and best put together units I’ve been a part of. “
So yeah, once and for all, Bell is happy to let the past be the past, and he says he doesn’t regret it – especially when he finally gets the Super Bowl win he’s coveted all his life.
“At the end of the day, I came here to play this game and I’m here,” said Bell. “So that’s how I see it, man, I’ve come to the right place, I’m happy where I am. Now we just have to finish the job. “
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