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Le’Veon Bell embraces mentor role for Chiefs running backs

The former All-Pro running back is happy with how this season has played out.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

In the modern landscape of the NFL, a “running back-by-committee” approach is popular because of the devaluation of running backs. It’s never been less important to have the big-name, star running back on your team — but the players themselves haven’t lost that desire to be big-time contributors.

That’s why the dynamic in the running back room for the Kansas City Chiefs is unique. Three talented running backs — rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, and Le’Veon Bell — have each shown the ability to carry the load for the Chiefs’ rushing attack at some point this season. Yet, not all three can share the spotlight in Super Bowl LV.

The veteran in the room is still adjusting to being a piece to the puzzle, rather than a one-man unit like his days in Pittsburgh. That being said, Bell has enjoyed the change.

“I’m just happy where I’m at,” Bell went on to tell reporters on Tuesday. “I’m happy with how the season went, but we have to cap it off with a Super Bowl win.”

Bell has only seen 11 snaps this postseason; he suffered an injury in practice leading up to the AFC championship game. But he has still managed to make an impact: Bell has embraced mentoring his first-round rookie teammate.

“Clyde, he’s one of my closest friends on the team,” Bell revealed. “He’s like a little brother... Every little thing that Clyde does — with him being a young player — I let him grow off it, then if he continues to make it a habit, I try to maybe help him on the side. He’s such a great player, and he runs with instincts so good that I try not to touch what he does instinctively. Every now and then, I’ll help him run a route or pass block or whatever... but instinctively, he’s one of the best instinctive running backs you’ll ever see — especially being that young. He’s a special player.”

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid expressed his appreciation for what Bell has brought to the team.

“I really like him,” Reid shared. “I like him as a kid, and I like him as a player. He brings that veteran experience, he’s been the best in the business at what he’s done, and he’s handled this role well.”

Edwards-Helaire isn’t the only young running back that has benefitted from Bell’s presence. Injuries have played a role, but Williams has had four of the top five rushing performances of his career since Bell entered the fold this season.

However, if you ask Chiefs running backs coach Deland McCullough, Williams has always been this good of a player. He just needed the opportunity.

“From the moment Darrel got here a couple years ago, he’s operated mentally at a very high level,” McCullough explained. “As far as this season, he had opportunity prior to Le’Veon coming in. He took a supplemental role as Le’Veon showed us what he could deliver and contribute to our running back room. Then when Le’Veon and Clyde got chipped up, he seized that opportunity.”

Coach Reid echoed a similar sentiment as McCullough — referencing the multiple injuries Williams has suffered in his career.

“That was the only thing holding Darrel back: being able to stay healthy consistently,” Reid pointed out. “He spent so much time rehabbing this past offseason, got himself into great shape, caught a couple breaks... He was able to, for the most part, stay injury-free and was able to put together this season... he’s sure had a good season up to this point. He’s really a smart football player, so we see him produce on the field, but we all have confidence in him, whether it’s third down, blitz protection, blocking for another back, catching a pass, he has a real feel for it. He’s really instinctive, and likewise, very smart.”

Williams and Edwards-Helaire will likely be the lead backs for the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, with Bell impacting the game by helping them prepare. Even with two players in their first year as Chiefs, the unit is cohesive. That’s important to McCullough.

“You want to have that synergy, that respect for each other and to all have that common goal,” McCullough stated. “To me, that trumps everything. [Le’Veon]’s seen that coming into the room — just how guys get along — and he’s blended in very well.”

“From the first day I came over here, I loved it right away,” Bell recalled. “I fit in with these guys. Everybody around embraced me, the coaches too.”

Bell has enjoyed his time so far in Kansas City, but it all culminates in a chance to play in the Super Bowl for the first time in his career. As he admitted on Tuesday, that’s the main reason he joined the Chiefs.