Le'Veon Bell has been away from the NFL for over a year-and-a-half until he returned to the Jets' facility in Florham Park for the first day of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.
That long hiatus, though, has many wondering: Is Bell still the NFL's top running back? It was long considered the case when he was racking up yards, making people miss, and dancing in the Heinz Field endzone for the Steelers in his five seasons in Pittsburgh. But since he left, players like Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, and his new crosstown rival Saquon Barkley have become part of those conversations.
Bell will be thrust back to the top of the list, but that doesn't mean he will be No. 1.
Or does it?
"A lot of people forget a little bit because the fact that they haven't seen it in a long time. It's normal," Bell said when asked if he's still the best back in the game. "But I feel like once I go out here, I'll play [the] first game -- people will be reminded. Right now is not the time."
Right now, Bell needs to get used to his new offense and get acclimated with the daily ins and outs of football practice. In time, though, Bell thinks he'll pick everything back up because "football is football," as he reiterated throughout.
But make no mistake: Bell won't be changing his offseason routine, even though he's up here now. After minicamp is over, Bell confirmed that he'll be heading back to Miami to continue his preparation for training camp. That is what his routine has been since he came into the league, and though he may have a new offense to work with now, he wants to stay true to what has worked in the past.
"I feel like I want to get back to my training and do my normal routine that I always do so I go out there, be healthy, be able to take as many carries as I need to take, and I will still learn the offense," Bell said. "The fact that I was here today, tomorrow, or however long the minicamp is, I'm only going to learn more. The offense is going to stick to me a little better."
The reason Bell could be confident in being the best at his position is Adam Gase's offense. He was very excited talking about it as it pertained to his skillset.
"I picture this scheme being amazing for me. It's a lot of opportunities I never had before," Bell said, adding that the offensive weapons around him will help open things up as well.
There is still a lot of time left in the offseason for Bell to get caught up with the rest of his team and learn the offense like the back of his hand. He'll spend the next six weeks doing it on his own again, but coming training camp, he said "I will definitely be ready."
And by ready, he means sitting atop the running back throne once again.