FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Le’Veon Bell doesn’t want the Jets to take it easy with him anymore.
Bell, who didn’t play in the preseason, told Adam Gase to use him as much as he wants in Sunday’s opener against the Bills.
“When I spoke to him yesterday he said, ‘Don’t hold back,’” Gase said Wednesday morning. “He feels like he’s ready to go. I think he’s pretty excited to get out there.”
The Jets signed Bell to a four-year, $52.5-million contract in free agency, and decided to hold him out in the preseason to keep him fresh and healthy for the regular season. Bell was on board with that. But he hasn’t played in an NFL game since Jan. 14, 2018 after holding out all of last season over a contract dispute with the Steelers.
Bell is raring to go and ready to take on a heavy workload when he makes his Jets debut Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
“I’ll carry it 50 (times) if he asks me to,” Bell said. “I’m ready. When I said ‘don’t hold back,’ I mean literally that. I don’t want to go out here and try to sprinkle me in and things like that. I’m ready to play football. I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment.
“A lot of people are excited to see me play. Just quadruple that, that’s how I feel. I’m excited to play and I can’t wait.”
When camp first started, Gase and the Jets limited Bell early, and just sprinkled him in to the offense. They gave him more and more reps as time went on to get him feeling comfortable and back in game shape.
Although he wanted to be more involved, Bell said at the time that he understood the Jets’ approach and that sometimes he needs the coaches to protect him from himself. But he believes that should be out the window now.
“This counts,” Bell said. “This counts. I got to go out there and do what I got to do to win the game. It ain’t like my body can’t take it. I’m going to go out here, a lot of butterflies, anxiety, nerves and all types of things are going to be hitting me before I hit the field. When I go out there that first play it’s going to be gone. I’m going to be ready to play football.”
Bell has been one of the most dynamic and versatile backs in the NFL since coming into the league in 2013, as well as one of the most used. He led the NFL with 406 touches in 2017. In the last game Bell played, he had 155 yards of total offense and two touchdowns – one rushing and one receiving.
Gase indicated that he went back to watch some tape of Bell in Pittsburgh just “to remind ourselves who that is back there. It’s a good feeling.”
He said he’s never coached any running back as talented and skilled as Bell.
“No, not close,” Gase said. “There’s a reason why this guy has been what he’s been since he’s been in the NFL.”
Bell said he would do whatever Gase asks of him - provided the Jets win. If not, Bell will want to be more involved. There’s no holding Bell back now.
“I want to make sure I go out there and do enough for us to win the game,” Bell said. “As long as we come out of the game with a win I don’t care if I have nine touches. If we win this game, that’s all that matters. I’m worried about Week 2 after that. I’m worried about beating the Buffalo Bills. However that comes about that comes about. I’m ready to play football.”