Le'Veon Bell was a no-show at Pittsburgh Steelers practice on Monday as they prepared for their regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
The All-Pro running back, who has not signed his $14.54million franchise-tag tender, was not at practice when it started at 10:45am (local time) at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
General manager Kevin Colbert issued a statement shortly thereafter. It read: "We are disappointed Le’Veon Bell has not signed his franchise tender and rejoined his team-mates.
"Coach [Mike] Tomlin and the coaching staff will continue to focus on preparing the players on our roster for our regular season opener on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns."
Bell, 26, has not participated in any team activities leading up to the new season, holding out in search of a new contract for the second successive year.
He remained away from the team last year through training camp but practiced on Labor Day and was activated on the eve of the regular-season opener.
Despite that holdout, he had 1,946 yards from scrimmage (1,291 on the ground) with 11 touchdowns and earned first-team All-Pro honours.
The Steelers can request a two-week roster exemption for Bell when he reports that allows them to not include him on their 53-man roster until he is activated.
James Conner has impressed as the starting running back in Bell's absence this preseason. Bell's leverage could decrease if he holds out into the season and Conner maintains preseason form that saw him average 5.3 yards per carry on 19 attempts.