FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Trying to get more production from Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets coach Adam Gase said Monday he already has talked with the star running back about ways in which they can utilize him better next season — an indication they expect to have him on the roster.
Gase said they might break out some old Pittsburgh Steelers tape in an attempt to create a comfort level for Bell, who had a historically bad year in his first season with the Jets.
“We talked about look at some of the stuff they did in Pittsburgh and talking through some of the things he’s comfortable with in the run game — especially early in the offseason and trying to focus on those types of runs and pass game,” Gase said as the players cleaned out their lockers after a 7-9 season.
Gase said the goal is to “take a break, and when we come back, we can really hone in on some of those things that maybe we missed or we did too much of that he wasn’t really comfortable with. It’s one of those things that allows us to evaluate what we did as an offense, and then I can go back to him and we can talk through that stuff when we get back in the spring.”
The only problem is, Bell isn’t a fan of attending the voluntary portion of the offseason program. He skipped it last offseason after signing a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the Jets, showing up mainly for the mandatory practices.
On Sunday, Bell was noncommittal on whether he’s planning to attend voluntary workouts. He prefers his personal trainer in South Florida.
The Bell-Gase relationship has been under the microscope since last spring, when it was reported that Gase didn’t want to spend that much money on Bell. His subpar season fueled speculation he could be traded, although that will be difficult because his $13.5 million for 2020 is fully guaranteed.
On Monday, Gase added to the speculation with a curt response to a question about whether he wants Bell on the team next season.
“He’s under contract for three more years,” he said, suggesting reporters ask general manager Joe Douglas about Bell on Tuesday at his season-ending news conference.
It appeared to be a lukewarm endorsement, but Gase later elaborated on Bell, mentioning their plans to watch Steelers tape and praising him for his professional approach through a tough season.
But the damage already might have been done. Gase’s initial response was picked up on social media and later retweeted by Bell, who posted a GIF that seemed to suggest he was mad.
Bell didn’t speak to reporters on Monday.
It was a frustrating year for Bell, who rushed for only 789 yards on 245 carries. His average (3.22) was the lowest single-season mark in Jets history for a player with a minimum of 200 carries.
Bell questioned his usage on two occasions, but he said last week that he wants to remain with the Jets. Gase was criticized for underutilizing him, but Bell finished eighth in the NFL in touches (including 66 receptions).
In other developments:
• Wide receiver Robby Anderson, who will be a free agent, said he plans to test the open market before signing anywhere.
“From a business perspective, why wouldn’t I want to go out and see what my value truly would be?” he said.
The Jets would like to re-sign Anderson, their top free agent, but the price could get too high. He said he’s looking to “get the most money and the best fit.”
• Quarterback Sam Darnold said he doesn’t expect to have surgery on his left thumb, which bothered him for several games, but he won’t know for sure until after further testing. Tight end Ryan Griffin underwent ankle surgery last week and expects to miss six months.
• Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, rehabbing a neck injury that landed him on injured reserve in Week 2, said he wants to play in 2020 but still doesn’t know whether his nonsurgical injury will allow that. Enunwa, speaking to reporters for the first time since he ripped the organization on Twitter for “excessive” fines after he missed two mandatory rehab sessions, refused to back down.
“I don’t feel bad about it,” he said. “It may change, and that’s a beautiful thing. Sometimes you have to do things out of your comfort zone to create change.”