When you’ve waited over two months to carry the football, and when you’ve been in a sweatsuit during six of the previous seven games, the one thing you can’t do is fumble. when you finally get the football.
Lamentably for Mike Bell, that’s precisely what happened in Week 12 at Chicago’s Soldier Field, and the bobble confirmed what was apparent — that a dream season as a rookie had morphed into a nightmare in Year Two.
The feel-good story that defined his 2006 success as an undrafted rookie belonged to Selvin Young a year later — that of the undrafted, overlooked draft prospect who played like a first-day selection.
Indeed, by the end of training camp, Young had already dazzled onlookers with a splendid preseason effort against Cleveland, and by the end of the August slate, Bell found himself unable to work his way into the top three running backs, with those spots claimed by Travis Henry, Young and Andre Hall.
Bell went to fullback, and touched the football six times in the season’s first three games, with five coming in the Week 2 win over the Oakland Raiders. But those six touches of the football netted just 10 yards, and after suferring a concussion in Week 3, he moved to the inactive list, where he would remain for another three weeks after recovering from the concussion.
Bell played against Tennessee in Week 11, then had one more opportunity drop into his lap six days later after Hall began to hobble with the high ankle sprain he suffered on the first play of the Chicago game.
But shortly after Bell fumbled, Hall was back in the lineup, with Cecil Sapp spelling the hurting Hall later after he finally succumbed to pain.
Bell wouldn’t see the field again in 2007.
His natural preference remains to be running back, but after experiencing weeks of game-day inactivity, Bell wasn’t picky about playing.
“I’d always be excited (to play running back) because that’s what I grew up playing and that’s what I still want to play, man,” he said in November. “But right now I just want to get back on the field — no matter what position it is.”