Before he started his new chapter in New York with the Jets, Le'Veon Bell spent the 2018 season away from football.
Out of the NFL as he missed the year due to his contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell stepped back and he reaffirmed his passion for the game.
In a 1-on-1 interview with SNY's Jeane Coakley, Bell looked back at the sabbatical, sharing the lessons he learned and how the period shaped his life on and off the field.
"I think it really hit me, how much I love football," Bell said, "because that was really one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life, sitting out. I've been playing since I was like 5 years old. So from when I was like 5, 6, 7, 8 -- all the way up till I was 26 -- I've been playing football. And it taught me a lot of patience, how to perservere and kind of keep all the negative influence out my life, you know what I'm saying?
Bell signed with the Jets for four years and $52.5 million -- $35 million guaranteed and $61 million maximum -- after five seasons with the Steelers from 2013-17, starting 62 games and totaling 42 touchdowns.
Through six games with the Jets, Bell has become an immediate leader and versatile playmaker, despite the offense's early struggles, totaling 501 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
The on-field experience has helped younger players such as get second-year quarterback Sam Darnold back up to speed, but the off-field growth is where Bell feels he developed himself the most.
"You'd be on social media and stuff a lot, so it's like -- you see it," Bell said. "Sometimes, somebody might say something or it might be something that goes on -- you kind of want to respond and shut it all down. But then I always realize, like, I'm going to feed into the negative energy. And I don't want to feed into the negative energy. I'm really like a person who's on all positive vibes.I don't really care about things that's going to try to bring me down or try to bring something else out of me. I literally am happy. When I made the decision, I knew I was going to have people on this side of the fence and people on this side of the fence, and I'm trying to do what's best for me and my family."
Content about where he is near the halfway point of his new journey with the Jets, Bell focuses on himself and the team while eliminating the outside noise.
"Another thing that always kind of hit me -- I always look at it like LeBron James. LeBron James -- I can't really think of one thing he's done wrong. But if I'm walking around, talking to people, people just don't like him. Why don't they like him? He's great at basketball. But he's never done anything wrong. He literally built a school and does so many positive things, but people still won't like him because he's LeBron, maybe because he gets compared to Michael Jordan. People don't like him, but he didn't do anything wrong. He's just a great player," Bell said. "So I always look at things like that and situations like that, and realize that I really can't make everybody happy -- and I understand that I can't make everybody happy. So the thing that really matters to me is trying to make people that matter to me most and love me and actually care about me. I'm trying to make them happy, vs. anybody else that doesn't really know me. And they talk on social media and they hear what they hear. I let that just handle itself."