Jets’ Bell feels ‘a million times better’ than Day 1 of camp

Sports

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Le’Veon Bell firmly believes he made the right decision, refusing to second-guess missing a season while in a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The New York Jets star running back is sorry about only one thing: for letting down the fantasy football owners who expected him to play. That’s why he sent that apologetic post on Twitter that went viral Tuesday.

“I don’t regret, obviously, sitting out last year, but the only thing is I wish I could’ve told fantasy owners in some type of way (that) I’m not playing this year, so they wouldn’t have picked me and things like that,” Bell said Thursday. “That’s the only thing I really apologized for because a lot of people picked me not even knowing if I was coming back and things like that, but that’s what I was really sorry about.

“Not because I sat out. I’m sorry about not being able to kind of communicate with the fantasy players that I’m not playing. A lot of people felt like they wasted their money and things like that, so that’s what I apologized for. I’m sorry, again.”

Bell appealed to fantasy owners, urging them to draft him this season — his first with the Jets after signing a four-year, $52.5 million contract in March.

He doubled-down on that Thursday, insisting people should take him with the No. 1 overall pick.

“Man, I’m excited,” he said. “I think as long as this offense does what this offense can do, I feel like anybody can be the No. 1 fantasy guy, just because of the fact we have so much talent.”

So are the Jets, who envision Bell to be a dual threat in Adam Gase’s offense, the way he was used during a five-year stint in Pittsburgh when he established himself as arguably the most dynamic running back in the NFL.

Bell has shown some flashes of that in the first week of training camp, although the Jets are making sure to not overload him early on. He has also been quickly digesting the playbook and developing chemistry with quarterback Sam Darnold and the rest of the offense.

“Compared to my first day, I feel a million times better,” he said. “Things are starting to stick a little better. Obviously, at the beginning of things, a lot of words kind of run together and you get a little confused. But, now, I feel a lot more comfortable and like I said, I’ll continue to get better.

“Next week, I’ll be even better than I am this week.”

Bell had an interesting first few days of camp as he was pulled out of two consecutive practices to take drug tests.

“PEDs and street drugs tests,” he said. “They wanted to see if I’m on steroids and they wanted to see if I’m on street drugs.”

He also cramped up twice during Sunday’s session, coming out of practice so the trainers could work on him.

“I wasn’t used to the long practices, rep after rep after rep,” Bell said. “You can’t really train for football shape. You can be in shape and be able to run and everything, but once you put the pads on and you’ve got that extra 30 pounds on you, it feels different. So, I think versus last week and fast-forward to this week, I feel a lot better.

“I’m glad where I am.”

Simply being on the football field is a big deal for Bell, who held his position on his contract situation last year despite many wondering if he was doing his career more harm by not playing.

He has maintained that his body is the healthiest it has been at this point in an offseason, and he has no worries about picking up right where he left off in 2017 as a playmaker out of the backfield.

“I think I’ll still be able to do what I’m able to do,” he said. “I mean, I go out here and practice the same way I practiced two, three years ago, and it feels the same. It actually feels slower now, for whatever reason. I just think I understand the game better.”

Bell is actually looking forward to the physical aspect of the game, saying Thursday was the first time in camp he was trying to get tackled.

“I want to get some poppin’ going on a little bit,” he said with a smile. “I’m a little eager for it.”

He also can’t wait to see what he can do in Gase’s offense, knowing the coach employs an aggressive style — and that could mean plenty of action for Bell.

Just the way he likes it.

“You’ve got a mastermind in Adam Gase, I mean, he’s unbelievable,” Bell said. “I literally watch him in practice and the way he calls plays and things like that, and he’s like, just very intelligent in how to call plays and putting guys in the right situations. It’s really hard to try to stop all the options he has open. … We’ve got to make sure everybody’s on the same page and once that happens, the sky is the limit for this offense. We’ve got a lot of talent around on the offense.

“We’ve got a young quarterback who’s starting to understand the offense even more, and it’s scary. So, I’m excited.”

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