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Le’Veon Bell says he’ll be the ‘bad guy’ so all NFL players can get paid

Bell took to Instagram to support Earl Thomas after the safety’s broken leg.

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Le’Veon Bell and Earl Thomas were kindred spirits heading into the 2018 season. Both were former multiple-time All-Pros coming into their final contracted seasons with teams unable to meet their long-term contract demands. Both held out through the bulk of the preseason while their teams practiced without them in an effort to lock down the financial security they’d earned through years of game-changing plays.

But when the 2018 season started, it was Thomas and not Bell who took the field for his team despite no new contract. And, on Sunday, it was Thomas, not Bell, who had his NFL future cast into doubt due to a broken leg.

For Bell, that validates his decision to give up week after week of game checks before he hits free agency. And if his Instagram comments on the matter are any indication, his holdout won’t be over anytime soon.

leveonbell smh exactly...get right bro bro @earl ! I’ll continue to be the bad guy for ALL of us

Bell’s comments were a response to a graphic that featured Thomas being carted off the field and teammate Bobby Wagner’s postgame quote that lamented the safety’s damned-if-he-does, damned-if-he-doesn’t 2018. Thomas spent the first four weeks of his season “holding in”, skipping a handful of practices during the week in an attempt to keep himself healthy before free agency, but playing masterful football on Sundays.

His outstanding performance against a Cowboys team he’d been linked to throughout the year proved he could still play at an All-Pro level at age 29. He was Pro Football Focus’s top-rated safety heading into Sunday’s clash with the Cardinals. But the value he built playing on game day was lost on a single snap in Arizona, and it may never be replaceable.

It’s not hard to envision a world where Thomas rides off into the sunset after this latest injury. He nearly did in 2016 when another broken leg left him “so at peace” with the idea of an early retirement. Now he’s two years older, has swum through an entire ocean of bullshit since then, and is now has another arduous rehabilitation AND a draining free agency process standing in the way of his return.

That’s the nature of professional football, and it’s a fate Bell is trying to avoid. He knows he’s made himself enemies with his holdout, even inside his own locker room. But with a market-resetting contract on the line, Bell is betting on himself — and not the chance that a fluke injury could end his career before he gets to the payday he’s been toiling toward since 2013.