Jets' motivated Bell out to prove he's now better than ever

Wed Aug 12 4:35pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer

In this Nov. 10, 2019, file photo, New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell (26) smiles before an NFL football game against the New York Giants, in East Rutherford, N.J. Bell has his sights set on a big-time bounce back. The New York Jets star running back put up pedestrian numbers last season after sitting out a year in a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bell say he's now in the best shape of his career and can't wait to show it on the field. AP Photo/Steven Ryan)


In this Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, file photo, New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell (26) runs against the Buffalo Bills during an NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y. Bell has his sights set on a big-time bounce back. The New York Jets star running back put up pedestrian numbers last season after sitting out a year in a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bell say he's now in the best shape of his career and can't wait to show it on the field. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)


NEW YORK (AP) Le'Veon Bell refuses to make excuses or blame anyone else.

The New York Jets star running back acknowledges he wasn't nearly as good as he expected he'd be in his first season with his new team. And, he points solely at himself for that.

Not the playcalling of coach Adam Gase. Not the season-long struggles of the offensive line. Nobody but himself.

So, the 28-year-old Bell dedicated his offseason to being better this year. Much better. And, he arrived for training camp looking leaner and carrying a heavy chip on his shoulder.

''This is the best I've felt, and I'm ready to show it,'' Bell said Wednesday during a video call. ''I'm ready to show that this is the best Le'Veon Bell that's ever played in the NFL.''

It's a bold statement for a player who has already accomplished so much. Bell was widely regarded the best all-around running back in the league just three years ago, a dual threat out of the backfield who could single-handedly flip a game - on the ground, in the passing game or both.

But, things change quickly in the NFL. And after sitting out the 2018 season in a contract stalemate with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he signed with the Jets in March 2019 and then put up pedestrian numbers.

''I feel like I left some yards out there,'' Bell acknowledged.

His 789 yards rushing were the second-fewest of his career, and his 3.2 yards per carry were his personal worst. Bell had 66 catches, but still only showed flashes of his previous brilliance. Even worse were the whispers that maybe he lost a step.

''I look back on it, it's like, dang, I wasn't even close to where I wanted to be,'' he said. ''If I wanted to take that next step and be a great player, I didn't work nearly hard enough.''

A year ago, Bell felt fine, he thought. He figured his conditioning was OK, despite the year layoff.

''I think I kind of got complacent in my head, you know?'' he said. ''You have success for six years in the NFL, you always kind of have - I've always had something to kind of drive me to be great. ... When you start hearing, `Oh, Le'Veon, you're the best running back in the league,' it's not like I stopped working hard, but it's more like, `Damn, I don't have that edge anymore, that chip.'''

Once the season began, Gase tried too aggressively to get Bell going, and it ended up backfiring. Opposing defenses knew what was coming, and they keyed in on Bell.

So, he became ineffective at times, something Gase insisted he ''did a bad job'' with throughout the season - and thoroughly intends to correct this year.

''It's just about getting the ball in his hands and letting him go do things,'' Gase said. ''Letting him make defenders miss, find ways to get him in open space. It's variety.''

The offensive line didn't necessarily make things easy up front, either, with run blocking an issue as well as protecting Sam Darnold. General manager Joe Douglas overhauled the unit, but Bell won't attribute any of his personal struggles to any of that.

''I've been hearing, oh, it's the O-line, the O-line issues or Coach Gase not giving me the ball,'' he said. ''Those are all outside things. And I look at myself, like, well, was I really the best that I could be? And I know it wasn't even close. So, I think this year is going to be a lot different in that aspect just for the fact that I really understand that the past six or seven years, I've worked hard and that's why I've been successful.

''But I haven't worked nearly as hard as I have the past 6 1/2 months.''

In May, Bell set a goal for himself to trim down, and used boxing and other intense workouts to do the job. He posted videos and pictures of his progress and says after previously playing at around 222 pounds, he's now in the 210-215-range - something he hasn't been since high school - and his conditioning is off the charts.

''This year, I'm expecting a lot for myself and I'm going to hold myself to a high standard,'' Bell said. ''And I'm ready to show everybody.''

He's got his sights set on a big-time bounceback, and he's hoping for a 16-game season to put all his offseason work on full display. Bell wants to be one of the main reasons the Jets become winners this season.

Not a reason they failed.

''He's fired up to go,'' Gase said. ''I know that.''

The complacency of previous success has been replaced by intense motivation, a desire Bell has never felt so strong at any point in his career.

''It's not even close,'' Bell said. ''Not even close.''

Player Notes
Julian Edelman Sep 19 12:53am ET

New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman was on the field for five of the 27 offensive snaps played with two receivers against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1. From 2017 to 2019, he was on the field for 41 percent of the snaps in two-receiver sets.

Fantasy Spin: One game isn't a big sample, and Edelman was still New England's most productive receiver in the opener. Fewer snaps would lead to less consistency, but Edelman is going to have WR3 potential regardless.

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Mark Andrews Sep 19 12:43am ET

Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews played a career-high 71 percent of the offensive snaps against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1, topping his previous high of 55 percent of the snaps.

Fantasy Spin: Andrews emerged as an elite fantasy tight end last year despite playing about half the snaps. If his increased usage from Week 1 becomes the norm, he should be a lock for top-five production.

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Gerald Everett Sep 18 11:33pm ET

Los Angeles Rams TE Gerald Everett (back) is expected to play against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2, according to head coach Sean McVay. 'We put him as questionable, but he ended up going today,' McVay said. 'He felt good. I fully expect him to be ready to go.'

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Doug Middleton Sep 18 11:03pm ET

Free-agent S Doug Middleton (Titans) was signed to the Jacksonville Jaguars' practice squad Friday, Sept. 18.

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Devante Bond Sep 18 10:53pm ET

Free-agent LB Devante Bond (Bears) and OG Dieter Eiselen (Bears) were signed to the practice squad of the Chicago Bears Friday, Sept. 18.

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Mason Schreck Sep 18 10:43pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals TE Mason Schreck was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster Friday, Sept. 18.

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C.J. Uzomah Sep 18 10:43pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals TE C.J. Uzomah (Achilles) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Friday, Sept. 18.

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Antonio Callaway Sep 18 9:43pm ET

Miami Dolphins WR Antonio Callaway will be eligible to return from his suspension after the Dolphins have played seven games in 2020.

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Lamical Perine Sep 18 9:20pm ET

New York Jets rookie running back La'Mical Perine (ankle) is questionable to face the 49ers in Week 2. Perine was limited in practice the last two days, so he has a real chance to make his NFL debut after he was inactive in the season-opener. The Jets could really use some depth with Le'Veon Bell on Injured Reserve. But even if Perine suits up on Sunday, he's unlikely to see much of a workload behind veteran Frank Gore. Plus, he'll be facing a really tough San Francisco defense after an offseason in which he didn't get many on-field repetitions.

From RotoBaller

San Francisco 49ers Sep 18 9:10pm ET

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Dee Ford (neck) is listed as questionable for Week 2 against the Jets. Ford didn't practice the last two days after dealing with some neck stiffness following the season-opening loss to the Cardinals. San Francisco placed cornerback Richard Sherman on the Injured Reserve this week, so they won't be at full strength against New York. Ford had just three combined tackles in Week 1. He should be avoided in IDP leagues because of his injury, but even at less than full strength, the 49ers Defense remains a must-start fantasy defense against a Jets team that will be missing both Le'Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder.

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Brandon McManus Sep 18 9:00pm ET

Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus didn't attempt a single field goal in the 16-14 Week 1 loss to the Titans, but he did make both of his extra-point tries. McManus has a very strong leg and kicks half the time in high altitude, but he'll be on the road this week and just can't be trusted in fantasy yet while the Broncos offense tries to get in sync. Quarterback Drew Lock showed potential last week, though, and he has plenty of talented weapons to work with in 2020. The 29-year-old kicker will become a streaming option at some point this year, but it won't be in Week 2 against the Steelers, especially if wide receiver Courtland Sutton (shoulder) misses another game.

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Noah Fant Sep 18 8:50pm ET

Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant caught five of his six targets for 81 yards and a touchdown in the Week 1 loss to the Titans, leading the team in receiving yards with Courtland Sutton (shoulder) inactive. Sutton is questionable heading into Week 2 against the Steelers, so Fant could once again be the team's leading receiver this Sunday. He'll obviously be a better upside TE1 if Sutton sits out, but at the very least, Fant will have some low-end TE1 appeal as one of quarterback Drew Lock's favorite targets. Some people believe the second-year tight end is primed for a breakout season with Lock under center for a full year.

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Denver Broncos Sep 18 8:50pm ET

The Denver Broncos won't have any rowdy fans to worry about on their trip to Pittsburgh in Week 2, but a healthy quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his cast of weapons will pose a big challenge to a defense missing Von Miller (ankle) for the year and cornerback A.J. Bouye (shoulder) for at least three weeks. Inside linebacker Mark Barron (hamstring) will also be out. Denver's run D didn't allow Derrick Henry to run wild last week, but their inexperienced rookie cornerbacks Michael Ojemudia and Essang Bassey will surely be tested by Big Ben with talented wideouts JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson leading the charge. While the Broncos Defense was worth starting last week, they should be avoided this week with key injuries mounting.

From RotoBaller

Jerry Jeudy Sep 18 8:40pm ET

Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy showed off some of his trademark route-running ability and quick feet in the team's Week 1 loss to the Titans, but he also had a couple uncharacteristic drops in his NFL debut. The 21-year-old from Alabama caught only four of his eight targets for 56 yards as the team's lead wideout last Monday with Courtland Sutton (shoulder) inactive. There's a lot to like in the long-term with Jeudy in this offense, but there will continue to be some growing pains throughout his rookie campaign. He'll be a more attractive upside WR4/flex in deeper leagues if Sutton misses another game, but the matchup against the Steelers is a difficult one regardless.

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Melvin Gordon Sep 18 8:30pm ET

Denver Broncos running back Royce Freeman will be the primary backup to Melvin Gordon in the team's Week 2 matchup against the Steelers after Denver ruled Phillip Lindsay (toe) out for the week. Freeman won't have any standalone fantasy value, though, after he saw just two touches -- a carry for no gain and a 12-yard reception -- in the second half of the Week 1 loss to the Titans when Lindsay didn't return after the first half. On top of it, Pittsburgh's rush defense was one of the best in the league last year and held Saquon Barkley down in their season opener. The 24-year-old will see more than two touches over the full game, but he should be ignored in pretty much any fantasy format.

From RotoBaller

Courtland Sutton Sep 18 8:13pm ET

Denver Broncos WR Courtland Sutton (shoulder) was limited during practice Friday, Sept. 18, and is listed as questionable for Week 2.

Fantasy Spin: Sutton is expected to be a game-time decision, so fantasy players will need to check the inactive list. Players will need to have other options available in case Sutton is ruled out, but Sutton would be a risky option if he is active.

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Chris Godwin Sep 18 7:53pm ET

Updating a previous report, Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (concussion) was limited during practice Friday, Sept. 18, and is listed as doubtful for Week 2.

Fantasy Spin: Godwin likely will be a game-time decision, so fantasy players will need to monitor his progress during the weekend. He is a must-start option when healthy, but players should have other options available in case he is ruled out.

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Mike Evans Sep 18 7:53pm ET

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Fantasy Spin: Evans should be more involved in the passing game this week since he was limited in Week 1 because of the hamstring injury. He should be considered a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver in fantasy leagues.

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Will Fuller Sep 18 7:43pm ET

Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (non-injury) did not participate in practice Friday, Sept. 18, but is not on the injury report for Week 2.

Fantasy Spin: Fuller led the team in receptions, receiving yards and targets last week and showed good chemistry with Deshaun Watson. He will be facing a tougher opponent in Week 2 but can still be a No. 3 receiver in fantasy leagues.

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Corey Davis Sep 18 7:43pm ET

Tennessee Titans WR Corey Davis (hamstring) fully participated in practice Friday, Sept. 18, and is not on the injury report for Week 2.

Fantasy Spin: Davis was upgraded during each day of practice this week and will be ready for his normal workload against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He likely will be the main option in the passing game for the Titans and can be at least a No. 3 receiver in fantasy leagues.

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