After going from the starting lineup to the game-day inactive list in seven days, one would understand if rookie running back Mike Bell was a tad flummoxed over another hairpin curve in a rookie season that has seen more unexpected turns than a mountain road.
Bell, though, simply saw it as a message — one he clearly received.
“I’ve got to fight harder,” he said. “You’ve got to get 2 and 3 (yards on carries). You can’t accept 1(-yard-runs). I’m going in with a different attitude.”
Only that, he believes, will get him back on the 45-man active roster for Sunday’s showdown with the San Diego Chargers.
“I know they have a tough defense, but I played against a lot of tough defenses in college and I have the best offensive line, so I’m going to find a way to make some plays,” Bell said. “I know the running game is looking for a spark, so if I get a chance, I’m definitely going to do it.”
But his back-to-back games against Indianapolis and Pittsburgh were about as opposite as two performances can be. He gained 136 yards on 15 carries against the Colts; a week later he had two more rushes but 108 fewer yards.
“The only game that he didn’t play at the level that I was hoping he would play in was the Pittsburgh game,” Head Coach Mike Shanahan said, “but that doesn’t mean that he is in the doghouse or anything.”
“I don’t think I did anything wrong to get into his doghouse,” Bell said, “so he did what was best for the team and I think at that time he felt Nash deserved a chance and he did, so (Shanahan) did what was best for the team.”
So now he must start anew, and attempt to prove once again to Shanahan and the offensive brass that he is that best option.
“I’m working hard, watching a lot of film, taking a lot of criticism and I’m just trying to get better,” Bell said. “I watched some tape and thought I left some yards on the field (at Pittsburgh).
“I was just getting so frustrated, I probably started deviating from the system and the game plan, and that’s a mental mistake, a rookie mistake and it’s definitely a learning experience, so I’m just going to learn from that and just trust the system and trust myself.”
And, he hopes, that will make his bosses trust him.