It doesn’t take much to get distracted from the New York Jets’ 5 and 8 win-loss record, or their loss last week to a winless Cincinnati Bengals team ending Cincy’s 11 straight record breaking defeats after the Jets also lost to the Miami Dolphins four weeks before, ending the Dolphins’ 7 game losing streak, but apparently LeVeon Bell going bowling on Saturday night, allegedly wearing orange leather pants while he has the flu, has that kind of cache.
The Jets running back missed Sunday’s second scheduled game against Miami, a 22-21 narrow home win because of the flu. The flu also kept Bell out of two days of practice last week.
Team doctors determined that Bell was too sick to suit up for Sunday’s game, but that didn’t stop Bell from going out Saturday night, which is not a violation of team rules.
“He wanted to play,” said Jets head coach Adam Gase about Bell, but he was still contagious. “They didn’t want him around all the other guys.” Team doctors thought that it could possibly spread throughout the team. Bilal Powell, who ran for 74 yards on 19 carries in Bell’s absence, also has flu symptoms and has now been sidelined.
“We didn’t want to have a situation like some of these other teams are having where they have 20 guys out during the week.” The Jets have been proactive about that.
“I’d rather him be at home just getting better,” said Gase, fielding questions from the media who wanted to know, “Will Bell be disciplined?”
But how can he be? Bell didn’t violate any team rules. He was out until 1 a.m. with several friends and family members in town to watch him play against the Dolphins. It just happened to be several hours after being ruled out by doctors for a game the next day.
“I wish I wasn’t seen doing it, but I don’t feel bad about what I did,” said Bell, in a slightly apologetic way while reminding everyone that he didn’t break any rules, as Gase reiterated.
“I can’t tell him, ‘You have to stay in your house,’” although Gase probably wishes that he could.
For Bell, who bowled 251, “a career high” according to him, it’s not a good look. It’s the optics, especially this week, a short work week for the Jets who are in Baltimore to play the 11 and 2 Ravens tonight. They’re facing quarterback Lamar Jackson, a leading MVP candidate.
“Thursday games are tough. They’re not easy, no matter who you’re playing,” noted Gase.
In addition to Jackson’s offense, Baltimore has a good defense. “They’re executing,” Gase further noted, “and they’re playing aggressive, and they’re playing off the offense. All three phases are playing well off each other.”
Is Bell expected to play tonight? “Yeah, he better,” said Gase emphatically. “We’re out of guys.”