After the Kansas City Chiefs’ first-round rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire was injured late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 32-29 victory over the New Orleans Saints, the responsibility for being the team’s No. 1 running back fell to veteran Le’Veon Bell, who joined the Chiefs in mid-October after being released by the New York Jets.
Bell had four carries over six snaps before Kansas City started lining up in the victory formation — two of them back-to-back 5-yard gains to convert the crucial final first down to seal the game.
In recent weeks, the Chiefs have been using Bell in about 30% of offensive plays. His workload is likely to double until Edwards-Helaire returns to the lineup — possibly as soon as the postseason — while Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson will probably rotate for the rest of the snaps.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said that he has no concerns about Bell knowing his role in Kansas City’s offensive scheme.
“Le’Veon Bell has played in this league long enough to know football,” declared Bieniemy. “Now he may be learning a different language — in a sense — but when it’s all said and done, football is football. He’ll be able to connect the two dots if that language doesn’t quite snap in. I’m not concerned with Le’Veon at all. Like I said... the next man is up.”
And even if he doesn’t every detail of the playbook down just yet, Bieniemy talked as if it won’t take Bell much longer to be fully acclimatized.
“He’s smart,” said Bieniemy. “He’s intelligent. He takes the game home. He’s a football junkie. He just gets it. And that’s the thing that I love about him: just his football intellect. And on top of that, he’s always asking questions — because he wants to know exactly what to do and how to do it the right way.”
The offensive coordinator said that Bell is among those who have been taking full advantage of the new technology (whose use in the NFL has been jump-started by the coronavirus pandemic), saying that it was useful not only for the players, but for the coaches, too.
“In this day and age, these guys get to take their iPads home,” he explained, “so they can study film on their iPads and be in constant communication with the coaches. So that’s huge.
“When you’ve got guys taking work home — obviously, you want all your players to do so — but on top of that, you can sit and observe, watch tape and have a conversation with someone — which just goes to show you how important it is to him. That just lets us know that, ‘This guy is in.’”
In his previous life as a running backs coach at Colorado, UCLA and the Minnesota Vikings — not to mention the Chiefs — Bieniemy has coached players like Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Jamaal Charles... and now Bell.
He said that the former Pittsburgh Steelers star has many of the same qualities he saw in those other star players.
“One thing that they all have: that determination to be the very best that they can be,” noted Bieniemy. “One thing they all like to do is to work. And they all understood: ‘Hey, if you don’t work, you don’t eat.’ And that’s how you live — [in] any particular position — when you want to be the very best at your position.”