For a man who wants to be known for his skills as a rapper, Le’Veon Bell is not always good with words. A series of cryptic interviews and social media messages have created a rather confused picture about his plans for the 2018 season and it is looking increasingly unlikely that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ star running back will be rejoining the team anytime soon.
Those hoping that Bell’s agent, Adisa Bakari, might have some encouraging news to share about his client would have been disappointed by his interview with Brady Quinn and Bruce Murray on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday. In an attempt to clarify Bell’s position, Bakari only added more confusion, leaving listeners with the impression that they might not be seeing his client until much later in the season after all.
In the full 13 minute interview, Bakari waxes poetically about the indoctrination of young players into placing the team above the needs of the individual, but in doing so makes some interesting remarks that gave several indications about Bell’s thoughts in these negotiations, as he told Quinn and Murray.
“The intelligent player understands that I first have to focus on self before I can revert or divert my interest back to the collective, to the team”
Taking exception to the team’s interest in winning a Super Bowl over the long-term security of his client, Bakari had especially strong opinions about the franchise tag. A system he suggested no longer worked if a team hoped to retain a player beyond an extra year or two.
Understandably believing the Steelers would want to use their star running back extensively this season, especially in light of it likely being his last year with the team, Bakari appears to believe that expectation alone is enough to warrant his client sitting out much of the season. As heard in the clip above in response to a question about Bell’s plans, Bakari turned the question into one of his own about the Steelers’ plans for his client.
“You're Kevin Colbert, You're Mike Tomlin, and you possibly have a once in a generation player for one more season, what would your plan be?”
When Murray responded that he would use Bell as much as possible and then went on to ask what Bakari and Bell’s plans were, the agent responded.
“You know, you can read in between those lines.”
Asked when that meant about when Bell would arrive, Bakari’s answer was no more helpful than his previous one.
“When we find out, I think Mike Tomlin said it best yesterday, he’ll get there when he’s there and we’ll address those issues when he arrives.”
Given more than six minutes at the start of the interview to state his client’s case, Bakari seemed to bristle at the notion this new position contradicted his previous statements to the press. While he had once said that Bell had every intention of making 2018 the best season of his career, and that his plan was the same as the year before, that clearly is not the case. At one time, it seemed fans had been led to believe Bell would be back in Pittsburgh by the start of the season, but now that appears to be something Bakari has gone back on, suggesting “something exceptional” had occurred to alter Bells’ plans.
What caused his change of heart is unclear, but the result could be Bell sitting out much longer than many first expected. For those still holding out hope of a long-term resolution, Bakari did at least have a few encouraging words.
“But again, I wanted to clarify, look, Le’Veon would want nothing more than to win a Super Bowl and to stay a Pittsburgh Steeler. That was his dream. Again, this is his family’s team. This is the team his household rooted for as a child growing up. Everyone was in black and yellow in the Bell household on Sundays.”
However, if Bell doesn't arrive with the team until Week 10, those words will sound rather hollow to many fans and if Bakari somehow hoped his remarks would promote further dialogue with Pittsburgh, he should have realized that putting them out there in the media was never going to go down well with the Steelers’ management
Statement from the Steelers upon request for GM Kevin Colbert in light of agent Adisa Bakari's comments on Le'Veon Bell: "We are not going to discuss any conversations through the media. If Adisa (Bakari) would like to talk further, he has the phone number to our offices."— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) September 5, 2018