Bell, who is being held out of the preseason games as a precaution, wants to get his body acclimated to contact before making his Jets debut in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills. So, in a very un-running-back-like move, he’s asking to be tackled.
“Go for the ball, things like that, just so I can get prepared,” Bell said Wednesday.
The Jets’ prized free-agent addition will sit out Saturday night against the New Orleans Saints, just as he did the first two preseason games. The starters aren’t expected to play the preseason finale. Bell, 27, said he’s on board with coach Adam Gase’s decision to keep him out of live action, confident he can get his regular-season prep on the practice field.
Because of his contract dispute last season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell hasn’t played a game in 19 months.
“I know once I get to the game it’s going to be a little different, but that’s something I’ll adjust to,” he said. “I’ve been playing football my whole life.”
Bell doesn’t want his teammates to deliver punishing hits, but he said he believes some upper-body contact will do him some good. If they shy away, he said he’ll try to get under their skin by initiating contact.
“I try to do that intentionally, just so I can feel it,” he said. “A lot of times you’ll start seeing guys get a little frustrated and they’ll try to hit me back — and that’s what I need. They won’t take me to the ground and they won’t go for my legs. Hitting me up top, things like that, I need all that.”
Gase has increased Bell’s practice reps, giving him approximately 15 “touches” per day — a lot for a running back. Gase said he felt it wasn’t worth the risk to expose Bell in the preseason, so he opted to keep his No. 1 offensive weapon on the sideline.
“I don’t think getting me four plays in the preseason is going to help me in Week 1,” Bell said.
To stay involved, Bell dressed for the first two games and participated in the pregame warm-ups. Quarterback Sam Darnold couldn’t resist the opportunity to razz his new teammate.
“He’s out there in the pregame with the pads on, dancing around,” Darnold said. “He’s like, ‘Let’s go, guys, get fired up.’ I’m like, ‘Bro, you’re not even playing. Once you start playing, you can start doing that stuff.'”
Gase, who reportedly wasn’t thrilled with the decision to give a $27 million guarantee to a running back, said he’s eager to see Bell in a game setting.
“I can’t wait to see what he does on a Sunday,” he said. “With him practicing, that’s fun enough. You can tell the guy is a special, special player.”