FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell doesn’t second-guess himself for sitting out last season, a decision that cost him $14 million in salary. His big regret is that he wasn’t able to share his intentions with fantasy owners.
“I wish I could’ve told fantasy owners some type of way, like, ‘I’m not playing this year,’ so they wouldn’t have picked me,” he said Thursday at training camp. “That’s the only thing I really apologized for, because a lot of people picked me not even knowing if I was coming back.”
Bell apologized Tuesday on Twitter, telling his followers it was long overdue. He elaborated after his sixth practice with the Jets.
“That’s why I was sorry, not because I sat out,” he said. “I’m sorry about not being able to communicate with the fantasy owners that I’m not playing. A lot of people felt like they wasted their money and things like that. That’s why I apologized. So, sorry again.”
Bell took a controversial stance with the Pittsburgh Steelers, opting to sit out the season rather than playing on the franchise tag. That didn’t deter the Jets, desperate for playmakers, from signing him to a four-year, $52.5 million contract in free agency. The deal includes $27 million in fully guaranteed money.
After an 18-month layoff, Bell, 27, is being eased into the flow of the offense, sharing reps with backup Ty Montgomery. Plagued by leg cramps in Sunday’s practice, Bell said he feels “a million times better” than he did at the start of camp.
On Thursday, he got banged around a little, as the Jets practiced in full pads and emphasized the running game. Bell said he welcomed the contact because it was “game-like conditions.” The Jets still haven’t said if he will play in the preseason.
Bell is optimistic he can be the player he was in 2017, when he was named All-Pro for the second time in his career. He believes the long layoff will be beneficial. He’s so excited that he said he should be the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy drafts.
He called coach Adam Gase a “mastermind” who will utilize his diverse talents. Bell also said quarterback Sam Darnold has “scary” potential. This is the first time in Bell’s career, dating to high school, that he has a quarterback younger than him. In Pittsburgh, of course, he had Ben Roethlisberger, 37.
“I’m watching (Darnold) and it’s unbelievable because I see him literally growing up,” Bell said. “I’m excited. I want to see what he can actually do, because the sky is the limit for him.”