FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Le’Veon Bell won’t play a down in the preseason, but he is more than making up for it in practice.
Bell touched the ball 15 times in the starting offense’s 33 reps Tuesday, so it’s clear that the team wants to gently scrape whatever rust there might be off their star running back.
Bell, whom the Jets signed to a $52.5-million contract in March, hasn’t played in a game in 18 months as he sat out all of last season because of a contract dispute.
Jets coach Adam Gase had been leaning toward not playing Bell in the preseason, given that his body has taken a lot of punishment in his career and is likely to take even more this season as the Jets’ primary weapon. Gase solidified his decision after starting inside linebacker Avery Williamson tore his ACL in the second quarter of last Thursday’s preseason game against the Falcons.
Bell’s absence in the final two games will mean more reps for the rest of the running backs. Ty Montgomery, who also signed with the Jets this offseason, had seven carries for 32 yards and a touchdown in the Jets’ 22-10 preseason win over Atlanta.
“Personally, I like playing in the preseason games,” Montgomery said after practice Tuesday. “The games are always different for me than practice. The game atmosphere is a little bit different.”
Montgomery, 26, is looking to revive his career after having disappointing seasons in 2017 and 2018. Montgomery was traded from the Packers to the Rams last season after a costly fumble on a kickoff return against, coincidentally, the Rams. After the game, it was revealed that Montgomery had been told to take a knee in the end zone on the kickoff.
Montgomery said he is willing to play whatever role the Jets need him to play and is looking forward to being a part of such a high-potent offense.
“I’m very excited. This offense as a whole is an attack offense and we are trying to attack as many points as possible,” he said “Coach Gase has a knack for putting guys in a potion to succeed no matter who they are. He’s going to take advantage of matchups. I can tell he enjoys calling plays and being creative on offense.”
Gase said he has been a big fan of Montgomery’s since his rookie year in 2015.
“When he was in Green Bay, I think it was one of his first games, he ripped one off against us,” said Gase, who was the offensive coordinator in Chicago that season. “You just notice him from afar. Anytime you get a guy who as a wide receiver and all of a sudden is a running back, you kind of take notice of that. He made plays when he had the opportunities.”
He’s going to have plenty of opportunities over the next two preseason games as the Jets continues to sit Bell. And while Montgomery might embrace playing in the preseason, it should have no impact on Bell despite his not getting any reps before the Bills visit for the season opener on Sept. 8. He didn’t play a single snap in the 2017 preseason before racking up 1,946 total yards and 11 touchdowns in 15 games with the Steelers. Bell said that he didn’t even play in scrimmages in his final two seasons at Michigan State.
Still, the Jets are going to make sure he gets plenty of practice.