4:23pm: Bell spoke Friday in response to the suspension reduction, saying that he never intentionally missed or “failed” any drug tests, per Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter links). Rather, Bell claims he was unable to make either his test in November or December, and officials couldn’t come to him. Further, Bell added that he missed an April test that was scheduled for 7 a.m and (via Tom Pelissero of USA Today) hasn’t smoked since December 2014.
1:49pm: Steelers’ RB Le’Veon Bell is having his suspension reduced from four to three games, sources tell ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Bell was handed the suspension in late July after missing a drug test.
The compromise came as the result of a settlement between the NFL and NFLPA, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. As part of the settlement, Bell remains in his current stage of the substance-abuse program (link). Staying in the same stage of the program means Bell’s next suspension would only be four games, not ten.
For his part, Bell has said all along that he would be victorious in his appeal against the NFL.
“I’m gonna win the appeal,” he said a few weeks ago. “(People) have no idea what happened.”
Bell now will be eligible to play Week 4 versus the Chiefs at home on October 2nd. He will still be sidelined for contests against the Redskins, Bengals, and Eagles.
Between Bell’s suspension and injury last season, the tailback appeared in only six games for the Steelers in 2015. Despite Bell’s 10-game absence, the Steelers had the eighth-best yards-per-carry average in the league last season, when DeAngelo Williams amassed 907 yards and 11 touchdowns on 200 carries in his age-32 campaign.
Bell has now put himself in a bad spot as he enters a contract year. Not only is the 24-year-old returning from a torn MCL and PCL, he also has raised some serious concerns about his off-field behavior. This summer, Bell declared in a rap song that he is seeking $15MM/year on his next contract. That now seems like a longshot.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.