Le’Veon Bell is a good example of an NFL player whose career was stunted by the league's substance-abuse policy. A second-round 2013 draft pick out of Michigan State by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell excelled as a running back in his first two seasons.
Things all changed for Bell on Aug. 20, 2014 when he and teammate LeGarrette Blount, also a runner, were arrested for marijuana possession (22 grams). This led to a two-game suspension for Bell in 2015 and a second suspension (three games) for a missed drug test in 2016.
Between the suspensions and injuries, Bell's careeer with the Steelers, which included three Pro Bowl selections, eventually went downhill. In 2019, he signed a four-year contract with the Jets. But Bell's best years of thousand-yard seasons were behind him. He lasted only two years in New York and, at 31, is currently out of the NFL.
In an interview with the Steel Here podcast, Bell reveals he smoked pot before games for years:
“I feel like I got a misconception about me with the whole weed thing. I was wrong just 'cause I shouldn’t have smoked in the car, regardless. But looking back at this, that’s what I did. When I was playing football, I smoked. Even before the games I would smoke. I’d go out there and run for 150 [yards] and two [touchdowns].”
He recalls about the arrest:
"The way I got caught was crazy. Me and LaGarrett had already smoked. We were trying to air out the car. The cop was on a motorcycle. We must have drove by him and he smelled something. I was in my Camaro, all black. I was the one driving, so I got the DUI. Whatever, I play football like this. I got suspended. At first it was a four-game suspension and then it when from three to two. Now, I was in the program. When I came back I figured I had some catching up to do."
About NFL drug testing:
"'Cause you get that one drug test, you're good all year round. For me, it wasn't about failing drug tests. In hindsight, looking back on it, I wish I was just smarter about it, the whole situation."
Le'Veon Bell: "When I was playing football, I smoked. Even before the games I would smoke."
On his best season:
"Year 3 (2015) was my best year. I missed the first three games and then got hurt. But I had so many special moments. I was so high as a running back."
In 2020, the NFL ruled players can no longer be suspended for testing positive for THC.
Blount, who was also suspended in 2015, retired in 2020.
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