It was more of a plea from Le’Veon Bell to Adam Gase than any “Just Give Me the Damn Ball” demand.
Bell chose not to stand in the middle of the visiting locker room at Jacksonville’s TIAA Stadium and vent his anger and frustration over being a helpless afterthought (11 touches) in the Jets’ 29-15 loss to the Jaguars on Sunday and instead bolted before the media arrived so he would not regret what might have spewed from his lips.
He simply texted his head coach.
And his head coach basically told him: “My bad.”
Gase has vowed to Just Give Him the Damn Ball against the Dolphins on Sunday, and all of the football world knows that Le’Veon Bell deserves getting the damn ball, knows that the real Le’Veon Bell (career-low 3.2-yard rushing average, nothing more explosive than 19 yards this season) is champing at the bit to show himself.
“I can be a guy who can help change this whole thing,” Bell said.
But Bell showed Thursday he can help change this whole thing in the locker room as well.
It wasn’t only Jamal Adams whom teams inquired about at the trade deadline. Bell’s name was bandied about as well.
But Bell did not throw a hissy fit, did not accuse GM Joe Douglas of going behind his back, did not feel compelled to compare himself to Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey or Ezekiel Elliott, did not refuse to let Douglas try to clear the air.
To the contrary.
Adams should do himself a favor and watch the video of how a grown man and leader handles these things.
Bell understood that Douglas was simply doing his due diligence picking up the phone to listen for an offer that he could not refuse.
And Bell appreciated Douglas coming to him to tell him: “I wasn’t actively trying to shop you.”
Bell, of course, is at a different stage of his career than Adams. The cutthroat business that is the NFL drew blood from him when he sat out the 2018 season in a bitter contract dispute with the Steelers before the Jets embraced him in free agency. And ever since they did, Bell has embraced the Jets back.
“I kinda understand the way the NFL does business,” Bell said. “So I didn’t really take offense to it at all.”
Bell wants to be part of the solution here. He doesn’t feel the need to tell us how much he hates losing. It wasn’t Douglas who signed him to that four-year, $52.5 million contract, $27 million guaranteed at signing; it was Mike Maccagnan. And when push come to shove Bell out the door, it mattered not at all.
“He came to me man-to-man and he told me what it was,” Bell said. “It wasn’t nothing that he went behind my back or nothing, he straight up told me, so I accepted it. It is what it is.”
Adams decided to make a mountain out of a molehill, and even as of Thursday morning, he had not spoken with Gase. Adams recruited Bell to the Jets.
So there was Le’Veon Bell, once a child but no more a child, singing a conciliatory and empathetic tune to his friend and to his employers.
“I think if I was a 24-year-old, I probably would have felt the same way when I first got drafted,” Bell, 27, said. “He knows like one organization, he feels like, ‘I put my heart, blood, sweat and tears in this game for this organization.’ For somebody to try to, I guess, shop me … He probably felt a little hurt by it or disgruntled, I don’t know the word for it, but if I was that age when I was with the Steelers, I’da felt the same way.
“I understand where he’s coming from. I understand where Joe and Gase is coming from also ’cause I understand the business of everything.
“So both sides gotta deal with it, but they gotta learn how to work together, wash it, move forward. Period.”
Now, please just Give Him The Damn Ball.