For the first time in a long time, Le'Veon Bell is truly happy.
The new Jets running back, who signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with $35 million guaranteed, is ready for a fresh new start in New York while leaving behind some ugly memories in Pittsburgh where he chose to sit out the entire 2019 season.
But it was more than just about the money for Bell.
While he previously detailed the roller-coaster of the last year he had negotiating with the Steelers, the 27-year-old opened up a little more about his experience in Pittsburgh on the field and in the locker room during an interview with Sports Illustrated -- particularly how the organization compares with the Jets, from whom he immediately felt a different vibe than he never had with the Steelers.
"I felt loved instantly," he said. "When I talked to coach [Adam] Gase, me and him were on the same level. He's not talking to me like I'm under him. He's the head coach but he's talking to me like I'm on the same level … like you respect me, I respect you."
Bell said that he has been in contact with Gase over the phone discussing different plays and giving his input on different things they can do in the playbook -- something he never experienced under Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh.
"I would never go to coach Tomlin - I literally remember my rookie year when I was coming into camp there was a play, I was like, 'Oh, I like this play, we should run this play.' Coach Tomlin was like, 'Shut up L Bell, you just run the ball,'" he said. "That's my rookie year, I'm thinking that's how it's supposed to be. I start making plays and year two, three he started coming around asking suggestions, but never to the point like, 'Hey, what play you like?' Or I wasn't comfortable to be like, 'I like this play, we should run this.'"
It was not just Bell's relationship with his head coach that was not ideal, but also some of his teammates.
There were several offensive linemen who called Bell out after he failed to show up Week 1 -- which he also explained in the interview -- and then there was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback has drawn criticism from former teammates in recent days, and Bell cited Roethlisberger as one of the reasons he wanted to leave Pittsburgh.
"That was part of it," Bell said. "It was a factor. It wasn't the factor, but it was a factor."
Bell said Roethlisberger could have been a better teammate.
"Be more open, more genuine, more real," he said. "Like we're friends. Like we're teammates."
Sam Darnold appears to be starting things off on the right foot with Bell.
The running back said that Darnold, along with safety Jamal Adams, both were part of recruiting efforts to lure him to New York.
"They made me feel welcome," Bell said. "Guys recruiting me, fans recruiting me, everything about it I had no choice."
Bell is confident that the change of scenery is exactly what he needed and believes he can be even better with the Jets.
"For me to get to my full potential I got to play with different players who want to see me succeed," Bell said. "Getting a fresh start would be the best thing for me. ... There's a lot I bring not just on the field, but in the locker room. I'm a great teammate."