By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyextra.com
Le’Veon Bell is unhappy.
Uh-oh. Here we go again.
In two days, Bell’s accelerated hype for the 2020 season took a sudden 180-degree turn.
Instead of Bell living up to his $13 million tag this fall, the Jets could be angling him toward a new home.
One of the major items on the Jets’ offseason checklist was to mend a reported rift between Bell and head coach Adam Gase. In his two years in Miami, workhorse backs like Bell didn’t work in his system. Reference here to ex-Dolphin Jay Ajayi.
Bell was pulled out of the team’s scrimmage Wednesday after two series. Gase attributed the maneuver to hamstring tightness. Bell’s performance wasn’t productive.
The next step was Bell’s tweets about not having a hamstring issue. You can find them on his Twitter account, but needless to say, they were very direct.
On Thursday, the Jets announced that they had acquired Miami running back Kalen Ballage, who was in the process of being released, for a 2021 seventh-round pick.
Ballage was one of Gase’s running backs in Miami in 2018 when he was a rookie and gained 191 yards on 36 carries for a 5.3 clip and also ran back kicks. Frank Gore served as a teammate then and proved to be a strong mentor.
So now Gase has returned two of his former running backs back to his staple, both of whom reflect his style. Rookie La’Mical Perine is expected to play a major role.
Gase bristled at ESPN Jets’ beat reporter Rich Cimini when he was asked about Bell’s split with Gore about reps, accusing Cimini of “trying to stir it up. The head coach claimed he wanted to not overwork each back.
Hmmm..if you read the tea leaves, there appears to still be some mending to do. This continues to be a great soap opera filled with the makings of some political rhetoric.
Remember Gase wasn’t crazy about former GM Mike Maccagnan signing the big ticket back, and it led to Maccagnan being ousted.
Gase can have the upper hand here because there aren’t any preseason games. He can craft his backfield without looking at game results.
The embattled head coach has said all the right things about Bell this spring and summer, and he could truly have been concerned about his hamstring tightness.
Ironically, Gase said that he didn’t want to overwork Bell this summer despite him averaging just under 53 yards per game with a subpar 3.2 yards per carry.
Before this, the 28-year-old Bell played the role well, chronicling a vigorous off season workout geared toward a return to the penthouse of NFL backs. Around the league, there still is positive outlook about his capabilities.
Yet, this was a man who missed a game last December with the flu, a night before he went bowling with the ailment. It regenerated thoughts on some of his malcontent incidents with the Steelers, ones some believed would surface with the Jets.
Two weeks ago, though, Bell beamed about the prospects of this season and pledged his loyalty to his coach.
“I love coach Gase,” Bell said. “I don’t understand why the allegations are about me and coach Gase. Me and coach Gase, we get along fine. Last year with the offense, we’re still figuring out what we like. … Me and him never had any falling out or arguments or bad talks. I think every talk we had was positive and moving in the right direction.”
In less than three weeks, we should have a clearer picture. The Jets’ passing game has been hampered by a rash of injuries, and Bell has the opportunity to emerge with the gauntlet as a result of it.
Sometimes, though, you just can’t solve an issue that would look to benefit the team. Personality and/or philosophy can get in the way. Still, athletes and coaches have bucked heads over the years and worked toward the top prize. Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson made it work.
However, Bell’s and Gase’s differences can the course of a potential playoff season and send a running back or a coach packing in the process.