Unlike the standard contract holdout, though, the running back’s absence isn’t a strategy designed to get the Steelers to cave to his demands. The two sides can’t even agree to a new contract until after the upcoming season.
With that in mind, general manager Kevin Colbert believes Bell is only holding himself back by not reporting to camp.
“My feeling is there’s nothing to be gained by a holdout,” Colbert told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The situation won’t change, it can’t really change from our part on a long-term deal.
“So it hurts him not to be here. It hurts him because he’s not working with his teammates, he’s not getting the conditioning work that he’s going to need to have a great 2017 season. And he’s not working with his teammates to get acclimated to the offense – every year it’s different.”
Bell has, however, played in the same system his entire NFL career. Some additional rest can certainly work in a running back’s favor, and he doesn’t have any financial incentive to report.
Since he hasn’t yet signed his franchise tag, a one-year tender that will pay him a fully guaranteed $12.12 million, he can’t be fined for his absence from camp.
Bell enters the 2017 campaign looking to put together a full season that will increase his leverage in negotiations as he seeks a long-term deal that would make him the NFL’s highest-paid running back. Despite missing four games last year, the former second-round pick recorded an impressive 1,268 rushing yards, 616 receiving yards, and nine total touchdowns.
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