Back on the field, Steelers’ Bell discusses Burfict, knee injury
Le’Veon Bell was beaming Tuesday because he took part in a practice-like setting with Steelers teammates for the first time since October.
Afterward, however, his mood turned when talking about the hit he absorbed from Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict that tore Bell’s right MCL on Nov. 1 at Heinz Field and ended Bell’s season.
Bell, an All-Pro running back, said he didn’t think it was an accident.
“I take the (point of view) that everyone just plays football just to love the game,” Bell said, “but there are people out here who are not playing like that: People out here trying to really take people out, so obviously I know that now.
“I wish I wasn’t ignorant to the fact of it before, but now I just know I have to take extra precautions of, you know, getting down (instead of fighting through a tackle) or protecting myself because people are (out to) take me out of the game.”
A Bengals player has ended Bell’s season each of the past two years. Safety Reggie Nelson tackled him low during the 2014 regular-season finale, hyperextending Bell’s right knee.
Bell said he believes those hits indicate two things:
One, he is not injury-prone: “I never was injured in football (before getting to the NFL),” he said.
Two, many players are playing with an intent to injure.
“I feel like a lot of teams will feel like it’s easier to take me out or (fellow stars Antonio Brown or Ben Roethlisberger), whatever, so we obviously have to be precautious,” Bell said after he took part in all individual drills but none of the 11-on-11 sessions during the Steelers’ first organized team activities session. “I didn’t think people played football like that, but it’s real.”
Bell was careful to not necessarily single out the Bengals — with whom the Steelers have a simmering rivalry — or Burfict, who also injured Brown and Roethlisberger with hits last season. On multiple occasions he implied other teams target players, too.
Still, Bell said of the Nov. 1 game, “I don’t think it was just (Burfict). It was like the whole team was really out there trying to like twist my ankles and do little, dirty stuff in between the piles.”
Bell was heading out of bounds when Burfict hit him. Burfict immediately ran in a celebratory manner, angering the Steelers. Bell acknowledged the social media well-wishes Burfict sent after Bell was cleared to run this spring.
Bell said he will be cleared to participate in contact drills by training camp and that “I’ll be 100 percent” in time for the season opener Sept. 12 at Washington.
“They take me through a nice little process and were holding me back from myself,” Bell said. “So even though I felt like I was ready to do all the cuts and stuff, and I felt like I was strong enough, doctors were like, ‘No, don’t do this yet. Don’t do that yet.’ I always want to listen to the professionals. And plus we’ve got a long offseason. We have a long time until we actually have got to (play a meaningful game).”
Entering the final season of his contract, Bell said there hadn’t been discussions between him or his agent and the Steelers about an extension.
Bell said realizing some players are out to injure others has changed how he approaches the game.
“I’m still going to be physical. I just know that when I’m on the sidelines, I can’t expect somebody to just push me out of bounds, you know?” Bell said. “I can’t take nothing for granted.”