According to ESPN's Rich Cimini, Bell tells his defensive teammates every day before practice to "give me a little something." The three-time Pro Bowler explained his reasoning to reporters Wednesday:
"Go for the ball, things like that, just so I can get prepared.
"I try to do that intentionally, just so I can feel it. A lot of times you'll start seeing guys get a little frustrated and they'll try to hit me back—and that's what I need. They won't take me to the ground and they won't go for my legs. Hitting me up top, things like that, I need all that."
Practice is the only time Bell will be able to absorb contact ahead of the season, as New York coach Adam Gase revealed earlier this week that the running back will sit out the preseason.
A second-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013, Bell has played five seasons in the NFL. He found himself among the most-used running backs in all of football during his time in the Steel City, as he topped 350 total touches in both 2016 and 2017, including playoffs.
He sat out all of last season as he refused to play under the franchise tag for the second consecutive season after failing to reach a long-term deal with the Steelers.
Having signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets in March, Bell is ready to get back in the thick of the action. And while he may want his teammates to get physical with him during practice, it would be understandable if they are hesitant.
Bell has found himself dealing with injuries throughout his career. He has appeared in all 16 regular-season games just once in five seasons, having accomplished the feat back in 2014. He has dealt with a midfoot sprain, a torn MCL and a groin injury in his career, and he missed a total of 17 games (five because of suspensions) over the course of his last three active seasons, including playoffs.
That injury history combined with the fact that he has been sidelined for essentially 19 months may deter Jets players from getting too physical with their new star teammate. Especially since the 6'1", 225-pound running back has proved to be among the best in the league at breaking tackles per Pro Football Focus:
If New York is going to snap an eight-year playoff drought, it is going to need Bell to be healthy and back to his All-Pro form. According to Bell himself, his teammates can play an important role in helping him accomplish that.