Le’Veon Bell entered this season in what he termed the best condition of his career.
But the running back didn’t even make it out of the first half of the Jets’ season opener without suffering an injury. It sidelined him for most of the second half of their 27-17 loss to Buffalo at Bills Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
It was a freak play that cut Bell’s day short. On second-and-10 from the Buffalo 23 with 23 seconds remaining in the first half, Bell ran a short pass pattern to the right of the formation. He was briefly held by linebacker A.J. Klein, who was penalized on the play, but as Bell continued running his pattern, he pulled up short and grabbed the back of his left leg. Sam Darnold’s pass fell incomplete.
Bell came back out for the second half with his left thigh heavily taped and played the first series of the third quarter, catching a 2-yard pass and running for 5 yards up the middle. But coach Adam Gase took him out after that, and Bell didn’t return because of what was termed a hamstring injury.
"I’m mad at myself that I let him go back in there in the second half," Gase said. "That play [on which Bell was injured] looked bad. I’m watching him and I thought it was going to be a touchdown."
Then Gase noticed Bell run awkwardly after being held by Klein.
"[Bell] got grabbed and then, just the way he planted and torqued, it looked really bad," Gase said. "I saw him grab his hamstring."
Gase said he considered removing Bell from the game at halftime.
"When we came in at halftime, I let him go back in there," he said. "I was worried about it and eventually [said], ‘I can’t put you in there. We can’t take a chance of you getting more hurt than you already are.’ "
Gase said he didn’t have a timetable for any potential absence, but hamstring injuries can be very slow to heal.
Bell was replaced by 37-year-old Frank Gore and Josh Adams, who was promoted from the practice squad because of an injury to rookie La’Mical Perine (ankle). Gore had six carries for 24 yards. Adams had two carries for 8 yards, including a fourth-quarter score.
Bell finished with six carries for 14 yards and two catches for 32 yards.
Bell, who last year rushed for only 789 yards and three touchdowns after signing a four-year, $52.5 million contract, had spoken optimistically about the 2020 season — both for himself and the team.
"I understand the offense so much better, it’s not even close," he said last week. "It’s like night and day for me. Me looking at the team, guys are a lot more comfortable, guys know their assignments, especially guys like Sam. He knows exactly where to go and what to do and what situation to put us in."