Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell was a critical component of the team's offensive success in 2014, but a two-game suspension and a knee injury in Week 8 limited him to just six games in 2015.
Bell's season-ending injury came against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the 24-year-old said Tuesday the tackle by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict that put him on the shelf was intended to do damage.
"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 told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
On the play in which Bell was injured, Burfict brought him down near the sideline. Bell's right knee got caught under Burfict's body and bent awkwardly.
When the teams met in the first round of the playoffs, Burfict hit Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown in the head, causing a concussion that forced Brown to miss the team's next playoff game, a loss at the Denver Broncos.
Bell had been diagnosed with a torn MCL that required surgery, and the Steelers placed him on injured reserve in November.
"I feel like there's a lot of teams that do that, try to take me out of the game," Bell told Adamski. The 2014 All-Pro didn't name names but said "a lot of teams in our division really play that same way, so obviously I know that—I just was kind of ignorant to that at first because I didn't think people played like that."
Bell is entering the final year of his contract, and he told Adamski he will play differently.
"I can't take nothing for granted," Bell said. "I have to really protect myself—either get out of bounds or continue to finish the play."
The Steelers can't afford to go through another year without Bell for more than half of their games, especially with wide receiver Martavis Bryant suspended for at least the 2016 season.
Bell is one of the league's most dynamic weapons. He ran for 1,361 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 83 passes for 854 yards and three scores in 2014.