Alley oops? Gase says Bell’s bowling a bad optic

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A flu-stricken Le’Veon Bell went bowling last Saturday night and the result was a split.

New York Jets coach Adam Gase said Tuesday the star running back’s late night on the lanes was a bad optic for Bell and the organization, considering he was too sick to play in Sunday’s game.

Bell responded later Tuesday, showing no remorse and claiming his only regret was that he was spotted in public. He joked about it, noting he bowled a career-high 251 “coming off the flu.”

“I don’t feel bad about what I did,” Bell said. “I didn’t break any rules. I wasn’t a distraction until now.”

This became more than a bowling story.

Bell added layer of intrigue to his closely scrutinized relationship with Gase, claiming he feels under-utilized in the offense. This wasn’t the first time he voiced his opinion on the matter, but these were his most strident comments of the season.

Asked if he has been afforded the opportunity to thrive, Bell replied, “Honestly, no. I think that’s just being in a new system, with new guys up front, a new coaching staff. I’m with a new organization. Everything kind of takes time, I understand that. That’s why I’ve always been patient.

“But to be honest with you, no. I feel like when I do, I’ll be back to what people are used to seeing.”

Bell battled the flu last week and missed two practices, plus the Saturday walkthrough. At 5 p.m. Saturday, the Jets announced Bell had been ruled out for their game against the Miami Dolphins. More than five hours later, he was spotted at a bowling alley in Boonton, New Jersey, first reported by the New York Post.

Bell watched the game from a private box at MetLife Stadium. Gase got wind of the bowling episode late Monday night.

Gase said he won’t discipline Bell because no team rules were violated, but he acknowledged it was a bad look.

“Yeah, I’d say so,” Gase said.

Bell, wearing bright orange pants, bowled with family and friends from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., when the alley closed.

“That wasn’t his fault that we said he’s still contagious,” Gase said. “I mean, that’s what the doctors told him. I’d rather him not be [bowling]. I’d rather him be at home, getting better. But that will be a conversation we have.”

They spoke late Tuesday about the incident. According to Bell, Gase reminded him about the perception it created.

Asked if he plans to impose a penalty, Gase said, “What am I going to discipline him for? I can’t tell him, ‘You have to stay in your house.'”

Bell gave his side of the story, saying he wanted to play but that he had dropped nine pounds.

“They weren’t sure about my energy and hydration, so they held me out of the game,” Bell said. “But they advised me to get out of the house and move a little bit. I had a lot of family and friends there because they were expecting me to play. Everybody was at my house, just kind of looking at me. I felt better, I felt a lot better, so we went out bowling and had fun.”

Bell has regained some of the weight and is expected to play Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Yeah, he’d better,” Gase said. “We’re out of guys.”

Bilal Powell, who replaced Bell last week and rushed for 74 yards (a team-high for the season), likely will miss the game because of an ankle injury. He also has the flu.

This has been a disappointing season for Bell, who arrived with big expectations after signing a four-year, $52.5 million contract in March. He hasn’t rushed for more than 70 yards in a game, and his numbers for the year are the worst of his career — 589 yards, a 3.2 average and three touchdowns. He’s second on the team with 55 catches.

Bell seemed particularly frustrated after the Jets’ Week 13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, a game in which he rushed only 10 times. Gase was opposed to signing Bell, sources said, prompting speculation that he’s trying to reduce his role.

After New York’s Week 8 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bell was so frustrated that he approached Gase and they talked it out. Bell said he’s done talking about it.

“I don’t like to keep harping on the same thing,” he said. “I said what I said. We had the conversation. That was that. I’m not about to have the same conversations over and over. We both understand each other. As time goes on, things will get better.”

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