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Will Le'Veon Bell play in the preseason for the Jets? It's a definite maybe

Jets running back Le'Veon Bell warms up prior

Jets running back Le'Veon Bell warms up prior to a preseason game against the Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Thursday. Credit: Daniel De Mato

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – The Le’Veon Bell ‘will he or won’t he’ has become a little bit like a carousel in the last few days. Adam Gase will eventually make the final call on whether Bell will see preseason action after a year out of the sport, but ultimately, Gase said, it will come down to his running back’s comfort level.

And Bell? Well, he said he certainly wouldn’t mind playing in a Jets preseason game…but he doesn’t have to.

Said Bell: “I don’t really necessarily need them. If I get them, they’ll help but I don’t think I’ll need them.”

And now Gase: “If he feels like, 'I need to get a series in, I need to get some snaps, I need to get some carries,' then we’ll do it. If we have a conversation and he feels good where he’s at, then maybe he doesn’t play in the preseason.”

And around and around we go. Where it’ll stop, nobody knows.

One thing the two feel sure about is that Bell isn’t in dire need of a tune-up, despite missing all last season because of a contract dispute. Bell said he’s been seeing plenty of action during practices – especially on Monday, which proved to be their chippiest yet – and will likely need just “a couple of plays, and I’m ready to go.”

“Each and every day in practice they’ve been upping my reps,” said Bell, holding on to his two-year-old daughter Melodie as he addressed the media. “I do a lot of conditioning, so I think they’re getting me prepared for game settings, so we’re going to see. Whatever Gase wants me to do, I’m going to go out there and do it.”

The primary concern is keeping the Jets’ $52.2 million investment healthy for Week 1. Of that amount, $35 million is guaranteed, and with all incentives, the contract could max out at $61 million. Those are plenty of reasons to hold onto Bell until the Jets face the Bills on Sept. 8, though there’s certainly an argument for getting Bell in sooner.

“I think more for him it’s in-game offense, the flow of the game,” Gase said when asked if there was any benefit to seeing him before the games count. “Really that’s the only thing he’s missing from what we’ve done. I don’t think it’s necessarily the contact. He knows what’s going on. It’s just that flow of the game – there’s just a different feel when it’s a real game. Like, Thursday (in the first preseason game), you saw, it’s different than practice. The way Sam (Darnold) was going with that tempo…he had a good tempo. I think with Le’Veon, it wouldn’t be a bad thing for him to experience, just so he can go, ‘OK, I know what it is.’”

Bell, though, has played 62 games over five seasons in the NFL and holds a bevy of Steelers franchise records, including most receiving yards and most scrimmage yards in a season – a testament to his experience. He'll naturally pick things up quicker than a rookie or second-year player. It's also a testament to his patient style of play.

As it turns out, this preseason is a test of his patience, too.

“I can’t wait [to play],” he said. “I was watching the first preseason game, just itching. It was crazy because Sam? He actually came to me so many times. He’s like just teasing me, like, ‘Oh, you wanna play, don’t you?’ I’m like, ‘You know I want to play so bad.’”

“I understand they’re going to protect me from myself.”

In the meantime, he’s satisfied himself with the Jets more intense practices, including Monday’s, which even included a fight between Alex Lewis and Nathan Shepherd – one that eventually turned into a short-lived brawl and dogpile between various members of the offense and defense.

“Today was a good practice,” Bell said in all earnestness.

Added Gase: “After watching him practice the last few times, I mean, he’s the one delivering more hits than anybody. I feel like he’s ready to go (as much as) anybody. If we have a discussion and we feel like at some point he should get in there for some time, we will.”

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