Le’Veon Bell might get a couple of touches Thursday night against the cross-town Giants and the star running back might not play a single snap in the preseason. The decision could be a tough one for Jets head coach Adam Gase.
“It’s a fine line with Le’Veon. He hasn’t played in a year,” he told reporters Tuesday. “At the same time, what’s the right time? Is it this game? Is it the next one? Is it the next one? Do we just not play him this preseason? Do we go through just the whole time and just give him reps?
Bell, who signed with the Green & White in March, said early in camp that he is on board with whatever direction Gase opts to take.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do with me, but whatever they want I’m going to go out there and do it because I’m just trying to go out there and win games,” he said.
Last summer, Gase was in a different situation with the Dolphins. It was his third year in South Florida and he had a 35-year-old future Hall of Fame running back in Frank Gore whom he had to keep in the garage.
“I was like, ‘Frank you’re not playing in the preseason,’ and he was in my office every day the third preseason game and he was like, ‘I am playing.’ It was hard to argue with Frank Gore in that situation because he’s not listening to what I’m saying,” Gase said of the NFL’s fourth all-time leading rusher. “He’s just like, ‘I’m playing. I will be dressed and whether or not you put me in a game will be one thing.’ And we ended up playing him one series and he stood next to me the next two series and said, ‘I’m going back in, I’m going back in,’ and it’s maddening with a guy like that who wants to play that bad.”
A second-round pick out of Michigan State in the 2013 Draft, Bell didn’t play at all last season. In the two summers prior, Bell combined to appear in two games and his eight touches in 2016-17 all came in a Week 3 preseason contest against the Saints.
“I didn’t play much in the preseason in Pittsburgh after my second year,” he said. “I probably played in a game or a series or two maybe, but I didn’t play too much in Pittsburgh in the preseason.”
The 27-year-old is adjusting to a new offense and he hasn’t played in any sort of game since Jan. 14, 2018 when he amassed 155 total yards and two scores in the Steelers’ 45-42 divisional round loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Obviously just playing in the game is going to be a little different. When I’m training and I come out here and practice, practice is a little different than training,” Bell said. “Then when I go play in a game, practice is going to be bit different than the game. Obviously each and every step, I’m going to do what the coaches allow me to do. I feel like it’s important. If they feel like it’s important, we’re going to go out there and do it.”
Bell will see the Giants at some point in 2019 because the Jets and the Giants will also match up in Week 10 of the regular season.
“Whatever decision we make heading into this stuff, we’ll all be good with and then we’ll do what we need to do and then we’ll move onto the next step,” Gase said.
Bell appeared in 27 regular-season contests in 2016-17 and averaged 1,280 rush yards and eight rush TDs in addition to 80 receptions, 636 receiving yards and two scores. After a year off, he has set the bar high for himself whenever he returns.
“I expect to be better. I don’t want to just say I’m going to be how I was two years ago,” he said. “Each and every year, I feel like I want to be a better player. I feel like I’m confident, I’m healthy. I’m just ready to go out there and perform.”