Le'Veon Bell cemented his place in NFL history in 2018 when he received the franchise tag, refused to sign it and chose to sit out the entire season.
The results since then haven’t been very good, yet Bell has no regrets about his decision.
“Oh no, no. That never crossed my mind,” Bell said. “I feel like me sitting out, how I look at it is it helped me on the back end of my career. The year that I came back, last year, it felt like I was a rookie all over again. I was so excited to get back on the field, get my gatherings back. I don’t know, it kind of like reset my body. I feel like it’s going to help me for the end of my career, elongate my career.”
Bell’s choice to spend 2018 away from football ultimately led to his departure from Pittsburgh in pursuit of a lucrative contract, which he secured with the New York Jets. The signing — a four-year, $52.5 million agreement — was a big deal, both in terms of money and significance in the football world at the time.
It never paid off. After breaking 1,200 yards in three of his final four seasons in Pittsburgh, Bell rushed for 789 yards and three touchdowns in 2019. His 3.2 yards per carry mark was incredibly underwhelming. And after it became clear his future was no longer in New York, the Jets waived Bell after just two games into the second year of that four-year contract.
Bell landed with Kansas City after weighing his options, telling reporters Tuesday that he also considered Miami and Buffalo, but had grown so tired of losing in New York, he felt his best chance to win was with the Chiefs. Now, he’s in the Super Bowl, making his choice worth it.
It’s interesting, though, because Bell gave up a year of his career to maximize his earning potential, and he’s now making a mere $1 million this season with the Chiefs. Elongating his career, as he said, might allow him to keep cashing checks for a longer period of time, but he hasn’t been anywhere near the game-changing back he was in Pittsburgh before their union ended in an ugly divorce.
Bell has gained 254 yards and scored twice on 63 carries with the Chiefs. His move west grabbed the attention of those following because of the on-paper potential — Le’Veon Bell, the star running back, on the explosive Chiefs? — but he’s made little difference and projects to play a minimal role in Super Bowl LV.
A ring is still a ring, though, which is likely what Bell would say if his Chiefs were to come away victorious Sunday. Still, this can’t be how anyone imagined things going for Bell, who looks far from physically reset.
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