A volatile stock has nothing on the vacillations of Mike Bell’s expectations and fortunes this year.
In June, he said that a successful rookie season entailed “making the team and just working my way from there.” Less than two months later, he was the Broncos’ first-string running back, becoming one of the focal points of an August derby that eventually saw him, Tatum Bell and Cedric Cobbs make the 53-man roster.
The regular season began, and Mike Bell’s reign atop the depth chart ended, but he split time with Tatum Bell. After two games, Tatum had the edge in carries (31-23) and yardage (172-102), but Mike had 16 more receiving yards (42 on five receptions versus 26 on four) and had the team’s only touchdown to that point.
But with the elder Bell averaging 1.1 more yards per carry (5.5 to 4.4), NFL reality provided Mike Bell with a cold slap in the face in Week 3 as the alternating-possession platoon between him and Tatum Bell ended after two weeks. Mike Bell was left with spot duty, which he bore without complaint.
“Nobody likes to be demoted,” he said, “but I’m the kind of person who looks at each situation like you can learn from it.
“I trust their decision,” he added. “They’re doing what is best for the team right now. I’m just trying to learn and hopefully get better and hope I can work my way back up, back into the rotation a little bit more.”
For the moment, Mike Bell must traipse upon a fine line. The competitor in him wants to start; that’s something that every position coach wants to see in one of his youthful students. But the team player in him knows that he must not rock the boat; public bellyaching is one of the most combustible elements that can destroy the delicate equation that creates a team’s chemistry.
And if he should ever get down, he simply has to recognize that he has already accomplished a great deal to come this far — going from undrafted purgatory to playing in all three games for a team hunting its fourth consecutive postseason bid.
“I’m not in a situation to complain, because I could be at home or I could be on the practice squad,” Mike Bell said. “There are so many ways it could be way worse. This is a good situation for me, personally. I can learn from this.”
A demotion can also provide a smidgen of a chip on the shoulder. That can’t hurt when playing a position where persistence is often the precursor to a handsome reward.
“I think I’m talented enough and the competition is great and I respect the competition, but I’m not content with the situation right now, but I’m going to have to work to get on top,” he said. “That’s how everybody’s belief is in life. Nobody wants to be second best.”
So Mike Bell will simply shrug off every upturn or downslide in his fortunes, diligently work in practice, and wait for opportunity to present itself once again.
“I feel like any second I could get in there, so I’m constantly just in the game,” he said. “I’m just ready to go.”