Le’Veon Bell’s most impressive athletic accomplishment as a member of the New York Jets occurred over the weekend, but not on the field Sunday, as his team eked out a win against the Miami Dolphins.
Meanwhile, Bell is averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per carry for the 5-8 Jets, has just four touchdowns and has yet to rush for more than 70 yards or have more than 61 receiving yards in any one game this season. That’s not exactly what he or Gang Green had in mind when the former Pittsburgh Steelers star was lured to his new team in the offseason with a four-year, $52.5 million contract.
Jets Coach Adam Gase agreed Tuesday with a reporter’s suggestion that Bell’s bowling exploits while sidelined with the flu made for a bad look. However, he said he had no basis for disciplining the 27-year-old back, saying, “I can’t tell him, ‘You have to stay in your house.’ ”
Gase confirmed that Bell was told to stay away from the team hotel because he was considered still contagious.
“I’d rather him be at home, just getting better, but that will be a conversation we’ll have,” the coach added.
The Flu Game for @LeVeonBell: He bowled a 251 on Saturday night.— Jets Videos (@snyjets) December 10, 2019
As Bell explained it, he started to feel sick this past Tuesday and may have exacerbated his condition by practicing Wednesday before sitting out team sessions the rest of the week. He said that by Saturday, he still wanted to play but was told that the Jets’ medical staff was concerned about the weight he had lost — about eight or nine pounds — and about his energy and hydration levels.
“They held me out of the game, but they did advise me to get out of the house and move a little bit,” Bell said. He said that he had family members and friends who had gathered to watch him play against the Dolphins, and as he felt better by Saturday, they went bowling.
The New York Post reported Monday, citing sources, that Bell’s party at the bowling alley “had alcohol on its table,” but it was not clear if the running back was drinking. According to the Post report, Bell stayed at the bowling alley from around 10:30 p.m. until 1 a.m.
Asked whether he was surprised that the story became such a talking point, Bell replied that he was, but added with a smile, “The bigger surprise is that I rolled a 251 off the flu.” He said his previous high was 238.
“I don’t feel bad about what I did,” Bell said (via ESPN). “I didn’t break any rules. I wasn’t a distraction until now.”
"What am I gonna discipline him for? I can't tell him you have to stay in your house" – Adam Gase says the optics are bad with the Le'Veon Bell story but he won't be disciplined pic.twitter.com/bRV5M4tg0k— Jets Videos (@snyjets) December 10, 2019
A three-time Pro Bowler over five seasons in Pittsburgh — he sat out 2018 altogether while in a contract dispute with the Steelers — Bell also used his media session Tuesday to complain about his usage, or relative lack thereof, in Gase’s offense.
“I feel like when I do [get more touches], I’ll be back to what people are used to seeing,” he said.
Gase was reportedly not in favor of Bell’s signing, a transaction struck by former Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan, who was fired two months later. Shortly after the NFL’s trade deadline in October, Bell said his agent told him that several teams, including the Steelers, contacted the Jets about acquiring the running back but that New York was “really asking for a high price and a lot for me.”
“I didn’t take any offense by it because I understand the business of the NFL,” Bell said at the time.
For now, Bell has been cleared to practice and he is expected to suit up for Thursday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. His services will be all the more needed by the Jets because backup running back Bilal Powell, who set a team season-high with 74 rushing yards Sunday, has the flu and an ankle injury.
Regarding the likelihood of Bell playing Thursday, Gase said: “Yeah, he’d better. We’re out of guys.”