New Jets running back Le'Veon Bell had every intention of returning to the Steelers during their Week 7 bye to sign his franchise tender, hit the field several weeks later and play out the rest of the season, believing he had no other choice if he wanted an accrued season in order to hit free agency this year.
But in an interview with ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, Bell revealed that he learned from social media that he didn't need to play at all to hit free agency as long as the Steelers didn't tag him again. Once he confirmed that with his agent, his goal to remain off the field the whole season to preserve his health for more guaranteed money was back in play.
"That was the biggest mix-up the whole time," Bell told Fowler. "I thought I had to sit out until Week 10 or else they can tag me again. Around before the bye week, that's when I found out I didn't have to play."
Despite that, Bell still returned to his Pittsburgh-area home before the Steelers' Week 10 home game against Carolina, and he strongly considered heading to the team's facility.
"I was so close to doing it," Bell told Fowler. "At the same time, I was so torn. Do I go through that? Will they embrace me or will they not? I eventually decided I sat out 10 games, I can sit six more. At the time, the team was malfunctioning, having problems, a lot of blame on me. I didn't want to come back and not feel welcome."
Ultimately, the reason he started his holdout in the first place is what kept him away.
"If I went out there for the last six games and got hurt, I would have felt sick," Bell said.
Now, Bell has his $25 million guaranteed and gets to play for the team he grew up rooting for.