Bell thinks he still has something left

by Gary Shelton on December 23, 2021

in general

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Once, he was a big deal. Once, he was such a star he could walk away from millions. Once, the world seemed to belong to Le'Veon Bell.

And then he turned 26, and Bell made perhaps the worst decision in the history of professional sports, sitting out all of the 2018 season instead of playing for a $14.5 million tag.


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Now, Bell is trying again, after being tossed away by the Jets and Ravens. He signed with the Bucs this week to replace the injured Leonard Fournette.

“I’m not even going to lie," Bell said Wednesday. "I got to the point where I had thought about kind of calling it quits just because of the fact that it kind of wasn’t working out for me the last couple spots I had been at. This was literally the only spot that I felt like could have made me want to play football and go out there and be excited to play. This was like literally the only place that could have called me and got me to really go play.

"I was going to go start focusing on boxing, but I think this was a great opportunity. It’s something you can’t really turn down, playing with Coach [Bruce] Arians, Tom Brady and obviously A.B. (Antonio Brown). They’ve got a good thing going over here. To come over here and try to help – I’m going to try to do my thing.”

His thing used to be fairly impressive. In three of Bell's first five seasons, he gained at least 1,200 yards rushing and 600 yards receiving.

Then he decided he wanted more, or he wasn't going to play. And he didn't. He sat out all of 2018, then signed a four-year, $52-million deal with the Jets. And his career went south. He gained 789 yards with the Jets in 2019, then his career began to unravel. This year, he averaged 16.6 yads per game for Baltimore before being cut and considered retiring.

"I was going to be done," Bell said. "I was at the point where I wasn’t really going to play football. I was going to focus on boxing. Once you get that phone call – it was like, ‘Oh yes, this is it.’ It’s something that I didn’t even think twice about. Once I got the call, it was like, ‘Yeah, let’s go. This is it. This is what I’ve been waiting for. This is the time.’ I think all the workouts and boxing I have been doing to stay in shape, I think it’s only going to help me for when I’m on the field because this is literally the best physical form I feel like I’ve ever been in in my life. I’m excited.” 

Bell will play behind Ronald Jones in the Bucs' attack. He could play Sunday against Carolina.

"Depends on how fast he can catch up," said Bucs' coach Bruce Arians. "He’s been a good receiver in the past and played in this offense in Pittsburgh for a while. We’ll see what he can learn and what he can give us in the next few weeks.”

Bell says he'll be ready.

"When I first got the call, I was actually working out, so I actually didn’t even answer at first," Bell said. "Then my agent called me and told me what happened. It was just a great opportunity for me, obviously, to come here and play with a seven-time Super Bowl champ [and] play with my other former teammate (Antonio Brown). I looked at it as a great opportunity and I was just excited when I got the call. It was hard to turn it down.

“I could play as many plays as they need me to. I think I am in great shape. I haven’t been playing football games, but just with my workout regimen, my diet and the things I have been doing over the course of this whole year – this is literally the best physical form I’ve ever been in. I’m excited. Whatever the coach asks me to do, I’m going to go out there and do it. I’m excited, I’m ready, I feel good and I’m just ready to go play football.”

If you're wondering what Bell has left, well, he's ready to show you, too.

"It is one of the worst feelings in the world, honestly," Bell said. "Knowing what I can do and how much I do have left – it’s the game I love and have been playing my whole life – it’s tough when it’s not really going the way you envision it. The last three or four years have definitely been tough. I think it kind of humbled me in a real good way and made me work so much harder. I know how bad that I want to help a team win.

"I want to be me and show people that I can still play football and that I’m still a great football player. I think that will and desire, and the last couple years of humbleness, just really kind of helped me out. I’m just looking forward to finishing this year out right and seeing where we go from here.”

The Bucs play at Carolina on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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