Le’Veon Bell Holdout: No Pay, No Play until Week 11 is the Right Attitude

 In NFL

The Le’Veon Bell holdout situation appears like it will linger into the 2018-19 NFL regular season. Bell must sign his $14.5-million franchise tag tender before Week 11. Doing so would make him eligible to test free agency in 2019. This would give Bell an opportunity to see if any of the other 31 teams are willing to meet his contractual demands.

Many Steelers players, executives, and football enthusiasts are disgruntled. They believe he has broken a promise to not abandon his teammates. That promise was implied via the following tweet that indicated their Week 1 matchup:

#JustBePatient. For Bell, that’s nothing new. The probable Hall of Famer has excelled with an unorthodox running style that’s noticeable to even the most casual viewers. ESPN’s Dan LeBatard once referred to Bell as possibly the most patient runner in NFL history. Bell’s first 54 games have him on pace with another all-time great: former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders.

Patience is a virtue. Why expect Bell to change his approach off the gridiron? The 26-year-old enters the most critical time of his career. He’s an every-down running back whose elevated usage makes him a greater target for injuries and bodily deterioration. Apex Insider did a study on determining when NFL running backs reach their peak. Most career seasons occurred at ages 26-27. A significant decline occurred after age 27.

Why does this matter? Let’s revisit the 2017 Le’Veon Bell holdout. Bell returned before Week 1. The Steelers responded with giving him a league-high 406 touches. That doesn’t include blocking assignments or simply running routes.

Few running backs mean as much to their teams as Bell. Maybe David Johnson or Todd Gurley? Regardless, Bell is an elite runner. He’s an elite receiver. The Steelers have zero proven commodities on their running back depth chart.

Haters are labeling Bell as “selfish.” They’re saying he has placed his interests ahead of the team. This thought process indicates that he should place winning games ahead of his long-term financial well-being.

Here’s a life lesson for everyone: Selfishness is a great thing. It’s only negative when it becomes a time-wasting attribute (e.g. selfies) or it creates an unreasonable opinion of self-worth.

Le’Veon Bell must take care of himself. He must take care of his family. Is that selfish? Well, nobody else is gonna do it for him. No logical individual would choose winning football games while jeopardizing their first major contract. Sure, maybe Tom Brady surrenders some salary to help improve the roster around him, but there’s an argument that sacrificing short-term salary for a more trophy-filled legacy is better for his long-term finances.

Putting the teammates ahead of Bell? The players care about him but only so much as it makes them look better. Bell getting short-changed means little to them when compared to how his absence affects their on-field performance. “He f—-ed us”…? No he didn’t. The players and coaches should’ve prepared for this. At worst, Bell’s guilty for having a change of heart and coming to his senses about playing another full season without a long-term deal. Yeah…not guilty.

And management? You think they care? Are they going to compensate him if one of those 406 Pro Bowl-caliber touches turns into a late-season injury that jeopardizes his age-27 season and career? Nope. Bell can lose money in the short term, but he could lose tens-of-millions in guarantees if what happened to Ryan Shazier happens to him.

Yeah…Ryan Shazier. That should’ve been a mind-opener for him. Or hell, even the players who’ve been blackballed for their anthem protests. They’ll blackball players for actions that the league hasn’t felt important enough to outright ban for two-plus seasons. Don’t pretend these executives give one single damn about the players. ZERO.

Le’Veon Bell is a smart man. Smart men make smart decisions. Patience has helped him evolve into one of the NFL’s finest running backs. That trend will help keep him fresh and healthy so he can earn the huge payday that awaits him. Maybe the Steelers aren’t willing to offer him a satisfactory long-term contract. Not every team is the Steelers though.

 *Cough* Washington Redskins *Cough.*

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Joshua Huffman was born and collegiately edumacated in Middle Tennessee. That said, Huffman spent 13-plus years with the type of Northern Wisconsinites and Yoopers who turn Nashville bars into alcohol wastelands whenever NFC North teams travel to play the Tennessee Titans. This makes him the NoBro of SoBros. He has published content for Yahoo! Sports (via Contributor Network) and Titan Sized, among other venues. At SoBros, he’ll provide Daily Fantasy Sports suggestions and broad sports coverage. Follow him on Twitter.

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