Le’Veon Bell made headlines last year when he extended his training camp holdout for the entire 2018 season, choosing not to play for the Steelers unless they gave him the contract he felt he deserved or traded him to a team that would.
This offseason, Bell was dealt to the New York Jets, who made him the second-highest paid running back in football with a 4-year, $52 million deal to be the bell cow behind Sam Darnold entering his second season as quarterback. In his 5-year career, Bell has rushed for 5,336 yards and 35 touchdowns, as he carried a heavy load in Pittsburgh’s offense. After sitting out last year, Bell vows to be back to his uber-productive self in New York, going so far as to offer fantasy football players an apology and promise to produce at a spectacular level after last year’s holdout.
While Bell will be on the field this season, a pair of other high-profile backs are following his lead and currently threatening to sit the season if they aren’t paid their value. Melvin Gordon of the Chargers and Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys are both still not with their teams as they look to get a deal on par with the likes of Bell. Gordon seems the most likely to sit out the full season like Bell or get traded, as the expectation is the Cowboys eventually come correct with an offer to Elliott. Still, Bell is thrilled to see other young backs seeking out their worth early on in their careers, using whatever leverage they have to get paid at a position that is brutal on players and often sees top players deteriorate at a faster rate than others.
Bell recently spoke with Uproxx Sports on behalf of Madden 20 as they launch their new Superstar KO mode, which he got the chance to demo in New York, and spoke about his excitement for this season, feeling healthier than ever after a season off, his full support of Elliott and Gordon, and his thoughts on the Jets and his new QB, Sam Darnold.
We’re now a week or so away from the season. How’s camp gone and how excited are you to get back on the field after a year off?
Camp has gone well. I’ve been working myself back in football playing shape, and it feels good. I’m excited to get back out there and make some plays, and really get some excitement in the stands and show people that I’m a better player than I was before. So, I’m excited and I can’t wait to get back on the field.
What was last year like for you and how difficult was it for you as a competitor to sit out, knowing what you were doing was right for you, but at the same time it’s just gotta be tough?
It was tough to do, because of me loving the game of football. Me having to sit down and watch the game as a fan, in a sense, it was difficult for me, but I had to do what I could to make sure I stayed in shape but at the same time resting my body. You know, it was kind of a blessing in disguise sitting out the whole year, because once I got back on the field and started my training back up in early January, end of December, when I started my training back up intense, my body felt so good. Usually when you play a football season, you’ll have little nicks and bruises and kinks that really never go away. You might have your offseason where there’s like a month where you don’t train or something, but then you get right back to it.