A day after saying he would not play football in 2022, Le'Veon Bell released a statement on social media Wednesday that seemed to hint he was retiring from the NFL as he was “excited for the next chapter” of his life and would “solely” focus on his “new sport” of boxing.
A post shared by LeVeon Bell (@leveonbell)
Bell, whose Instagram post was accompanied by a picture of him wrapping his hand for boxing training, was once regarded as one of the NFL’s top running backs during his time as an All-Pro with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2013-2017. Bell then sat out the 2018 season amid a contract dispute with the Steelers and, despite signing a lucrative contract with the New York Jets in 2019, his career was never the same.
Mixed within his words on what’s next, Bell also wrote that he wished he could go back to 2018.
“The NFL has done great things for me, [and] I truly appreciated every single year of my NFL journey,” Bell wrote. “Obviously, I (we, whoever) wish things would’ve played out differently in 2018, like if I legit had a time machine to go back to 2018, that would be soo litttt 🔥 for soo many reasons but I don’t … all I can do, all WE can do is keep moving forward with life.”
Aside from wishing he could hop in a DeLorean and gun it to 88 mph back to 2018, the 30-year-old Bell seems otherwise all about going full speed ahead into the world of boxing.
He’s set to face another free-agent running back, Adrian Peterson, on July 30 in Los Angeles in an exhibition boxing bout.
If this indeed is it for Bell on the football field, it was quite a wild ride to get to this point.
Selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Bell burst upon the scene as a Steelers rookie, racking up 1,259 scrimmage yards, eight rushing touchdowns and foreshadowing the versatile backfield dynamo he would become.
He would go on to form a sensational Steelers triplets combo with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown. When histrionics off the field didn’t muddy the waters, the Pittsburgh trio was magnificent between the lines. Bell was an All-Pro twice and a Pro Bowler three times with the Steelers, rushing for more than 1,000 yards in three of his five Pittsburgh seasons.
After piling up a league-high 406 touches to go with 11 total touchdowns and 1,946 scrimmage yards in 2017, Bell, who was assigned the franchise tag for a second straight year, ended up sitting out the duration of the 2018 campaign in search of a better contract from the Steelers.
As the top free agent in 2019, Bell had the media, fans and everyone else listening carefully to a mixtape he dropped to see if he unveiled his new squad. He didn’t, but eventually news broke that Bell was joining the Jets on a four-year, $52.5 million pact. Bell played only 17 games for New York and rushed for only 863 yards as he was released during the 2020 season.
Bell went on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs later that season, but it hardly went well as he found playing time and open space equally arduous to come by, getting just 76 touches in nine games. Thereafter, Bell’s time ended badly with a third squad in a row as he became one of the few NFL players to speak out with dismay for Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.
In 2021, Bell had cups of coffee with the Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Following five seasons with the Steelers, Bell’s last three seasons were split across four squads, essentially a tale of two careers — one as a star back and the other as an often disgruntled journeyman.
Going forward, he’s focused on boxing, which is hardly the sport to start at 30, but in today’s world of celebrity boxing there are dollars to be made in the short-term, at the least.
The Peterson-Bell showdown will take place on the undercard of Social Gloves 2, a card that continues the trend of boxing events featuring social media personalities, athletes and celebrities. The card will be a pay-per-view stream, and is set to be headlined by YouTube personalities Austin McGroom and AnEsonGib. It will also feature ex-NBA player Nick Young fighting rapper Blueface, and rapper DGG toeing the line with rapper PnB Rock.
The Bell-Peterson clash could not only signal the running backs’ first boxing match, but the end of their football careers. While Bell did not mention retirement in his Wednesday post, his focus is clearly on boxing and his days in the NFL, at least for now, are relegated to visions of time machines and autumns past.
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