“I don’t understand why everybody is trying to put me and Gase against each other,” Bell said Thursday on a Zoom call. “We’re not against each other. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to believe, but we actually like each other.”
This was Bell’s first comment since questioning Gase eight days ago after an instrasquad scrimmage in which he was removed due to hamstring “tightness,” as Gase told reporters at the time. Bell responded on Twitter, saying he had no hamstring issues and suggesting he didn’t want to come out.
It resulted in a long sitdown between Bell and Gase, who admitted to reporters he was “caught off guard” by Bell’s Twitter rant.
A week later, Bell acknowledged his hamstring was “a little tight,” but he indicated he felt well enough to continue. He now realizes the trainers were trying to protect him.
“It was no big deal,” Bell said. “It was just a miscommunication between me, the trainers and Coach Gase. But I just want to really clear it up for everybody, fantasy owners and everybody: My hamstring is fine.”
To avoid another misunderstanding, Bell said he would like to speak directly to Gase instead of using “two, three, four middle men.” That’s not always possible, though, on a chaotic sideline during the game.
The Bell-Gase relationship has been under the spotlight since last year, when it was reported that Gase was opposed to signing a running back to a massive free-agent contract — four years, $52.5 million. Gase also was criticized for under-utilizing Bell, who suffered the worst statistical season of his career.
“Ever since I got here and he got here, there’s kind of been this little thing of me and him butting heads all the time, which I don’t know where it comes from,” Bell said. “We had a long conversation (last week) because basically people (blew) it out of proportion because I did make the tweet.” Gase said he has no problems with Bell. And vice versa.
But Bell refused to admit it was a mistake to air his feelings on Twitter before speaking with his coach.
“Everybody tried to make it seem like it was trying to go against what Gase said,” he said. “I’m just trying to clarify: My hamstrings are fine. I wasn’t worried about my practice reps or what people tried to make it seem like. I’m just telling you, my hamstring is fine.”
Bell, 28, who reported to camp at 210 pounds (12 below his listed 2019 weight), reiterated he feels like he’s in the best shape of his career.
The Jets are talking about expanding his role as receiver, with Gase saying: “I feel like we can find better ways to get him the ball to help him create more explosive plays. We can get him in space better than we did last year.”
Bell caught 66 passes last season, but only 11 came when he was lined up outside the backfield, according to NFL NextGen Stats. He said he’d welcome a more versatile role in the offense, but he said that was secondary to winning.
“This is the best I’ve felt since I’ve been in the league,” Bell said. “We’re going to see. We play Buffalo in a (10) days. I think it’ll be my first opportunity to show how different a player I am. It’s going to be fun.”