Bell returns to football with TD in Jets’ loss

Playing for the first time in 20 months, running back Le’Veon Bell displayed his old Pittsburgh Steelers form, scoring a touchdown and a two-point conversion in the New York Jets’ 17-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Bell showed his entire skill set, finishing with 92 yards from scrimmage. He rushed 17 times for 60 yards, and he caught six passes for 32 yards. He played every offensive snap — 67 — which was impressive when you consider he was held out of the preseason.

“Honestly, it didn’t feel like (a long layoff),” Bell said. “It felt, like, normal. I went out there and I played football and I felt good, just being out there and having fun. I still had fun playing the game today. The outcome wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I’m a competitive guy, so I’m not happy we lost the game. I was happy I was able to compete again and came out of the game healthy.”

Bell sparked the lifeless Jets offense in the third quarter, scoring on a 9-yard pass from Sam Darnold. Bell lined up as a wide receiver, split to the left, and he beat linebacker Matt Milano on a corner route to the goal line.

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The surprising late-week shake-up underlines the team’s concerns about the depth along their offensive line. They also traded for tackle Korey Cunningham and guard/tackle Jermaine Eluemunor just before final roster cuts. Health and durability will be as crucial for this group as any on the team.

Seconds later, Bell did it again, showing off his ball skills on the two-point conversion. It came on an adlib play, with Darnold eluding pressure. The quarterback scrambled 38 yards behind the line of scrimmage before lofting a pass into the back of the end zone.

Bell, who prides himself on having basketball skills, outjumped safety Siran Neal to give the Jets a 16-0 lead.

Bell, 27, who sat out last season because of a contract dispute with the Steelers, told Gase at the start of the practice week that he was ready for a full workload.

“Don’t hold back,” he told Gase, the playcaller.

He didn’t. Bell was the focal point of the running game, as no other back had more than two carries. The Jets’ prized free-agent addition began the day with 7,996 yards from scrimmage. He eclipsed the 8,000-yard mark on his first carry, reaching that plateau faster than any player in NFL history. He did it in 63 games; Eric Dickerson did it in 64.

Because Bodine was on the Patriots’ roster after Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, he will still receive a Week 1 paycheck from the Patriots. But if he returns to the team at some point after Sunday’s game, his contract won’t be fully guaranteed as it would have been if he was on the roster after 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Bodine was scheduled to earn a base salary of $1.9 million in 2019.

The Boston Globe first reported the Patriots’ intention to release Bodine, who appealed to the Patriots, in part, because of his experience (74 career starts).

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