Running back Le’Veon Bell said he wishes he would have handled his 2018 holdout with the Steelers differently, during his introductory press conference with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Bell, who will be reunited with former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and wide receiver Antonio Brown in Tampa Bay, said he was considering retiring after his release by the Baltimore Ravens earlier this season, and was going to try to start a boxing career.
"I had thought about calling it quits. This was literally the only spot that could've made me want to play football and go out there and be excited to play." pic.twitter.com/ptd4cSVJHi
— Sports by Tampa Bay Times (@TBTimes_Sports) December 22, 2021
Bell was the Steelers’ second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, and made three All-Pro teams in Pittsburgh, but after being hit with a franchise tag for the second time in 2018, he decided to not sign his contract and sit out the entire season.
After gaining his free agency, he signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the Jets, but lasted just a year and a half in New York. He later caught on with the Kansas City Chiefs and made it all the way to the Super Bowl as a reserve, but couldn’t find a job this season until the Ravens had several running backs injured.
“The last three or four years have definitely been tough,” Bell said. “I think it kind of humbled me in a real good way. It made me work so much harder. I know how bad I want it, to help a team win, and to still show people I’m still a great football player. I just think that will and desire and that last couple years of humbleness kinda helped me out.”
Bell said he does not regret sitting out the season, but he does wish that he would have handled the attention around the decision better.
“Having my name in the headlines and maybe drawing so much attention to it, that’d be the only thing I wish I could kind of do differently,” he said. “But my decision and what I wanted to do at the time, I felt like, if I didn’t know what I knew now … and I could go back four years ago, five years ago, whatever it was — I probably would still do the same thing, because of like what I felt I was worth at that time.”
Bell famously did not communicate with the team or the public that he would be holding out the entire 2018 season. His teammates publicly expressed the sentiment that they thought Bell would again sign his tender after sitting out training camp. When that didn’t happen on the eve of the regular season, Bell lost the support of his teammates.
“Here’s a guy who doesn’t give a damn,” guard Ramon Foster said at the time. Bell holding out for the season was never made official until November.
“I think I kinda would have been more quiet about it and just went about my business differently,” Bell said this week. “But I don’t regret the way things went. It helped me become who I am today, so I don’t take anything back.”
Bell’s decision likely ended up costing him money compared to the Steelers’ best offer, but he doesn’t seem to be ready to acknowledge that.