June 15, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

LeSean McCoy and Le’Veon Bell on Super Bowl 2021

Had their respective teams made the Super Bowl in 2017, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back LeSean McCoy and Kansas City Chiefs running back Le’Veon Bell would have been featured heavily in the offensive game plan.

But on Sunday, both will take a minimal role, as they have all season. And they are fine with that, they said.

Gone are the days when Bell and McCoy both rushed for over 1,000 yards and were selected to the Pro Bowl for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills, respectively, four years ago. Instead the two this season served as mentors to younger players.

Bell, 28, rushed for 328 yards and two touchdowns in 11 regular-season games for the Chiefs. McCoy, 32, rushed for just 31 yards in 10 games. In the NFC championship against the Green Bay Packers, McCoy played only one offensive snap.

“Me just being a veteran, at this point I want to win,” said McCoy, who posted more than 11,000 rushing yards in 12 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Bills, Chiefs and Buccaneers. “Everybody knows the things I’ve done and I want to be able to still affect the game. They look at me now as insurance. If one of the guys gets banged up or they need a blow, they can count on me to go in there, replace them and not miss a beat.”

McCoy, a six-time Pro-Bowl honoree, played 13 games last season during the Chiefs’ Super Bowl run under coach Andy Reid, who also coached him in Philadelphia. After joining the Buccaneers, he fully expected to be the backup to starter Ronald Jones. But he knew his playing time would again diminish after the team in September signed Leonard Fournette, who was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

McCoy said he embraced the situation, and enjoyed hearing the younger players’ stories of how they used him in video games as children. If the Buccaneers win Sunday, he said he might retire.

“If I get two championships with all my resume, it might be over,” he said. “But you never know, so I think I’ll just take it every day and I’ll revisit that when the time presents itself.”

Bell has rushed for over 6,400 yards in seven seasons, including five with the Steelers. But Bell held out the entire 2018 season over a contract dispute, an absence he said he doesn’t regret.

“It kind of helped me for the back end of my career,” Bell said. “It felt like I was a rookie all over again. It reset my body and helped me for the long game of my career.”

Kansas City Chiefs running back Le’Veon Bell (26) makes a move on Denver Broncos strong safety Kareem Jackson (22) in the first half in Kansas City, Mo. on Dec. 6, 2020.

(Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)

The Jets that offseason signed Bell to a four-year, $52-million deal. That marriage was short-lived, though, as Bell scored only four touchdowns in 2019 and averaged 3.2 yards per carry.

Bell missed three games in 2020 because of a hamstring injury, and saw only 22 touches in the two games he was active. He subtly voiced his displeasure of his usage by former coach Adam Gase on Twitter. Unable to find a trade partner, the Jets released Bell in October.

Bell said it was a tough decision to choose his next team, and he said he had interest from the Miami Dolphins, the Bills and the Chiefs. He ultimately decided on Kansas City because losing games with the Jets “frustrated” him, he said, and he wanted to be in a winning culture.

Though he shares carries with rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire and third-year pro Darrell Williams, Bell said he is happy with his situation.

“It’s been different, something I’ve been adjusting to,” Bell said. “It’s going to help me play longer. Every time I get in the game, it feels like I’m fresh. It’s a good change, it’s something different, but I like it.

“I’ve always been the guy who wants to win football games, whether I get one carry or 55 carries.”