The dreaded injury bug is already affecting NFL teams, and the season is just ready to get underway this week. The Baltimore Ravens are one of these injury-stricken teams that must now look to waiver wires and other means to fill out their roster. In need of help in the backfield after losing J.K. Dobbins in the preseason, the Ravens have turned to an old nemesis in Le’Veon Bell to help fill the void.
Bell played (if you can call it that) with the Kansas City Chiefs last season, signing with the team in October after being released by the N.Y. Jets. In nine regular-season games with the Chiefs, Bell managed to gain 254 yards on the ground and two touchdowns in limited action.
The former two-time All-Pro running back was released from KC in the offseason and had less than flattering things to say about head coach Andy Reid on his way out. Bell followed that up with a halfhearted apology while also standing by his original comments within the same statement.
The Ravens will be Bell’s fourth team in the past few years. The strange turn Bell’s career has taken since he sat out the 2018 season in Pittsburgh over a contract dispute is baffling. In five years with the Steelers, Bell rushed for no less than 1,268 yards in three of them. In Bell’s second year, he rushed for a career-high 1,361 yards. During his stint with Pittsburgh, Bell was arguably the best rushing-receiving combo back in the league. Bell caught 83 or more passes twice while for the Steelers.
Taking a year away from the game seemed to really have its effect on Bell. In his first season with the Jets (2019), Bell rushed for 789 yards in 15 games. Two years prior, Bell rushed for 1,291 yards in the same number of games for the Steelers. In New York, the difference in Bell’s performance was quite noticeable. Although, it was the Jets, so maybe that had something to do with it. But last year with the Chiefs, Bell could barely get on the field. He was a non-factor in KC’s run to the Super Bowl. Bell registered two carries for six yards rushing with the Chiefs in the playoffs.
In Baltimore, Bell looks to redeem himself after two less than stellar seasons. The Ravens must feel Bell has something left. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be taking a chance on him, even on the practice squad. That’s a long fall for a player that was once a hall of fame track less than five years ago.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh is taking an optimistic approach to Bell’s signing.
“Le’Veon’s a guy I think we’re very familiar with,” Harbaugh said during his press conference. “Obviously, played against him so many times and so many highly competitive, emotional games. It was fun to have him in for the workout. He had a good workout. Practiced yesterday, did a good job. So, yeah, we’ll have a process with him. He’s excited, he’s learning, and we’ll see where it goes.”
Bell better hope things go well for the 29-year-old Bell in Baltimore. We know how quickly this league can dispose of players at the running back position. For most NFL running backs turning 30 means “the end,” and opportunities soon dry up around the league. If Bell can contribute and put forth a good showing with the Ravens, he may set himself up for another one- or two-year deal, prolonging his career. If not, Bell will continue fading into the background and will be gone by the age of 30, like so many other NFL backs before him.