Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell has received plenty of criticism for sitting out to start the 2018 season, but he explained the situation from his perspective Monday.
"It sucks having to sit out football," he said, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. "I want to play. I want to win games and the playoffs. But I've gotta take this stand. Knowing my worth and knowing I can tear a ligament or get surgery at any time, I knew I couldn't play 16 games with 400 or more touches."
Bell has refused to sign his $14.5 million one-year tender on the franchise tag, but he is expected to return to the team in Week 7 during the Steelers' bye week, per Fowler.
The 26-year-old was named first-team All-Pro last season for the second time in his career, but he led also led the NFL with 406 offensive touches.
Limiting the wear and tear on his body during the 2018 season could potentially lead to a larger payday once he hits free agency next offseason, while a single injury could cost him millions.
There are questions about where he will play next year or even end the 2018 season, with Adam Schefter of ESPN reporting the team is still listening to trade offers. However, Bell doesn't think he will be traded and instead wants to re-sign with the team if possible.
"I could be naive or hopeful, but at the end of the day I feel like that's what's going to happen," Bell said about re-signing with the team. "I don't think they really want me gone. That could be me being prideful. But I'm still holding out hope."
He was reportedly offered $70 million over five years but only $17 million was guaranteed.
Meanwhile, the Steelers could be desperate after a 1-2-1 start to the 2018 season with Bell absent. The team only had 19 rushing yards in Sunday's loss to the division-rival Baltimore Ravens, something that likely wouldn't happen with an elite running back like Bell on the field.