Jets’ Le’Veon Bell displaying his leadership through adversity

New York Post Sports 1 month ago

Le’Veon Bell has no regrets.

In fact, in the face of the worst start to his terrific career — with the Jets 1-5 as they travel to play the Jaguars on Sunday — Bell is embracing the adversity.

During a wide-ranging interview with The Post this week, it became clear that the Jets star running back actually welcomes the added degree of difficulty that this rough start has presented him.

“I’ve never started 1-5, so I kind of look at as this is a great opportunity for me to show what type of person and player I am to help turn things around,” Bell said. “That’s how I look at it. I could have signed anywhere I wanted. I could have gone to [a team] that was already good and helped make them a little better. Or I could have gone somewhere that hadn’t been winning games and help them win games.

“I’m a football player who loves challenges. I’ve never really been on a bad team before, and even if they were bad, I felt like I was a good enough player to make them better. So, why wouldn’t I try that at the highest level of football?

“Plus, I loved the Jets growing up. People think it was all about the money, but the Jets didn’t offer me the best deal. They made me happy with the offer, and this was somewhere I wanted to be. It was an easy decision.’’

When the Jets signed Bell, many of his teammates had preconceived notions about the type of guy who was about to join their locker room. Bell, an established star who sat out 2018 in a contract dispute, was lumped into the selfish world in which his former Steelers teammate, receiver Antonio Brown, lives.

It was assumed Bell and Brown were one and the same. This is human nature. Often times, though, human nature leads you down the wrong path. This is the case with Bell, who as a teammate is as much a humble, positive force as anyone in the Jets locker room has ever met.

“I honestly expected him to be like somebody you didn’t want to be around,’’ offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison told The Post. “I thought he was going to come in there like, ‘I’m Le’Veon Bell.’ I was expecting him to have an ego. But he was the complete opposite. He’s so down-to-earth, such a chill guy. He’s one of the guys.’’

Linebacker Jordan Jenkins recalled that when the Jets signed Bell, a friend of his who is a Steelers fan ranted against it.

“He told me, ‘Oh, man, screw Le’Veon and AB [Brown] and all these egotistical prima donnas,’ ” Jenkins told The Post. “All the little rumors of him being a bad guy or having a negative attitude, that’s all bull [bleep]. From the first day Le’Veon came in here, he was cool. He’s a great leader for this team.

Bell doesn’t see stars. He doesn’t create locker-room cliques. He unites.

“He’s one of the hardest-working players we have at practice,’’ offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “Those are the type of guys you need when you’re trying to flip something and build something. You need your highest-paid players to be your hardest workers.’’

On Wednesday, he was doing his usual thing after practice — immersed in a game of chess on his cell phone, bouncing around the locker room bringing teammates into it. The teammate he plays chess against most is fourth-string tight end Trevon Wesco.

“Le’Veon is someone who helps bring the whole team together,’’ Harrison said.

“Once I got here, all eyes were kind of on me, seeing what kind of leader I would be,’’ Bell said. “It let people see my personality and see what type of leader I am and kind of opened people’s eyes up to me.”

Bell recognized right away how impactful the way he conducted himself would be on his teammates.

“I always just try to stay positive,” Bell said. “I might feel different, but I’m not going to show anybody else that I feel different, because that might affect somebody else’s mood. I’m patient. I understand it’s going to come. It’s not like my talent went away or I’m not a good football player.”

Patience is Bell’s virtue. Where it comes from, who knows? Very possibly his obsession with playing chess.

“When you think about it, he’s kind of playing chess on the football field — mentally, he completely understands what’s going on and is anticipating the next move,’’ fellow running back Ty Montgomery said.

“I am playing chess when I’m playing football,’’ Bell said. “It’s not saying I’m not gifted athletically, because I am. But I play so much more from the neck up.”

This has been the most pleasant — and valuable — surprise that Bell has brought to the Jets. And they’ll be better for it. Maybe Sunday in Jacksonville, maybe the following week. But his impact will be lasting.

For more on the Jets, listen to this episode of the Jets podcast, “Gang’s All Here”:

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