Le’Veon Bell’s holdout from the Pittsburgh Steelers for the entire 2018 season inspired a litany of hot takes, infuriated teammates and sunk more than a few fantasy teams. His refusal to show up to Steelers facilities was one of the biggest stories in sports, with the athlete cast as either a symbol for the power of labor in an unforgiving league or an entitled villain who willingly weakened his team out of sheer greed.
Bell has since hit free agency and signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the New York Jets. And now he’s saying that his whole saga last year, skipping out for an entire season, was never his original plan.
Le’Veon Bell says he planned to return to Steelers in Week 1
In an interview with Sports Illustrated TV, Bell claimed that he was only planning to skip the team’s training camp, OTAs and Week 1 in order to limit the mileage on his body. And then, well, stuff happened.
In an exclusive interview with @SInow, @LeVeonBell reveals he had originally planned to only sit out Week 1 before skipping the entire season.
Tune in tomorrow for the full sit-down with the Jets' new RB https://t.co/TDIWlyUYPS pic.twitter.com/x6smAnSv7T
— SI TV (@watch_SITV) March 19, 2019
A transcript of Bell’s stated plan up to the Steelers’ bye week in Week 7:
First, I was literally just thinking “I don’t want to play camp and OTAs, because I’m conserving my body. I’m not playing.” I’m just thinking “When Week 1 come, I’m going to come,” but things led up to Week 1, so I’m like “I’m not going to play Week 1.” Things after Week 1, you know what I’m saying, it just sort of builds up, so it’s not making me feel comfortable over the course of time. That’s what I was getting at. I can’t even remember little details or little things that was happening leading up to Week 1 or when they were in camp and I was training. Just leading up to that, it’s like “OK, I’m cool.” Then Week 2, “I’m cool.” Then it got to a point where it was like “Regardless of what they say, I’m going to come back after the bye week. I’m going to bite the bullet, I’m going to come back after the bye week.”
After that, Bell said he learned that the Steelers could still hit him with another franchise tag even if he sat out the whole season. His reaction: “If I don’t gotta come back, then I’m not going to come back.”
It’s quite something that Bell, a professional athlete who employs a professional agent, says he didn’t know that he could be franchised tagged again even if he returned after Week 10. However, that story also lines up with reports that his agent, Adisa Bakari, didn’t know Bell would be eligible for the tag even if he sat out the entire season.
Regardless of the rules and deadlines, Bell seems to be saying that he was ready to report to the Steelers multiple times, but events transpired that soured him on a return. Bell says he doesn’t remember which events those were, but it’s worth recalling that his teammates began blasting him in the run-up to Week 1.
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