FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Le’Veon Bell took his first handoff from Sam Darnold and was stopped for negative yards. But the day was definitely a positive for the Jets and their new star running back.
After missing a voluntary camp and the first two weeks of OTAs, Bell was on the field with the Jets for the first time. It was also his first time practicing for an NFL team since January 2018.
Bell didn’t do much Tuesday — he only had seven reps — but he soaked in everything. During team drills, he spent most of his time with the quarterbacks and coaches, making sure he heard and absorbed all the play-calls and terminology. Bell believes he will be even better in Adam Gase’s offense than he was in Pittsburgh’s.
“I picture this scheme being amazing for me just for the fact that there’s a lot of opportunities that I never really had before,” Bell said following the first of three minicamp practices. “It’s going to be very exciting.”
Three times in six years with the Steelers, Bell amassed at least 1,884 rushing and receiving yards. He had 406 touches in 2017. It’s hard to see him being better or getting more opportunities, but Bell believes he can and he will.
One reason Bell gave was Gase is all about offense whereas Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin is defense-centric. Bell also believes Darnold will help him because of one characteristic he has that his old quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, did not.
“Sam’s going to make me a better player because of the fact that he’s so mobile,” Bell said. “He’s going to create opportunities for me that I wouldn’t usually have. I think the same thing for him — I’m going to make opportunities for him that he’s never had before too. We’re going to be a special duo in the backfield.”
During practice Bell and Gase were seen laughing and shaking hands, which is important considering all that has happened the last few weeks.
When the Jets fired general manager Mike Maccagnan, reports surfaced that one of the things he and Gase clashed over was the signing of Bell to a four-year, $52.5 -million contract. Bell said he doesn’t “buy into reports,” and that he’s been in communication with Gase throughout this offseason.
“Me and coach Gase talk all the time,” Bell said. “Business is business. Even if the report was true, he don’t feel I’m not a great player. Maybe he felt like we could have got more great players, I don’t know. Me and him, our relationship is great.
“I talk to him literally every day, especially when I was away and I’m sending him my workouts and I’m saying, ‘When I run this seam route this is what I want to do on it.’ He’s giving me input back. Communication is there. That’s all that matters.”
Gase and Bell plan to make the most of these three days together.
“It’s kind of the first step to see what we’ll evolve to,” Gase said.
Bell said he won’t attend the final OTAs next week. He’ll continue his offseason workout routine in Florida with his personal trainer.
Gase has been consistent in not publicly expressing frustration about Bell bypassing voluntary team events. Gase did say he’s missing things, but he tempered it.
“Just for us when it’s the first year of an offense and we’re all trying to get used to each other you lose a little bit,” Gase said. “But the good thing is with professional football players they are quick studies, this is what they do. They can adapt very quickly.”
Bell already is adapting. He said he picked up some things from hearing the live calls and taking part in or watching the plays as they happen that he didn’t get from film.
“When training camp comes I will definitely be ready,” Bell said. “Trust me.”