November 11, 2008 3:48 PM
Bell to carry rock in hard place
It will be interesting to see how Tatum Bell is accepted by his new/old Broncos teammates, given his messy departure from Detroit.
There are few bigger breaches of locker-room trust than stealing within a professional athletic setting. No one wants to place their valuables in their own personal space worrying about whether it's going to somehow turn up missing.
To review Bell's sordid tale:
--- On Sept. 1, running back Rudi Johnson visited the Lions, ostensibly to take Bell's job. Bell responded by grabbing Johnson's bags while Johnson was in the office of then-Detroit CEO Matt Millen, an act caught on surveillance tape.
--- Bell's initial public story was that his act was an honest mistake and that he'd picked up the wrong bags. He said a former high school and college buddy, recently cut by Detroit, had asked him to pick up a backpack that had been left behind. Bell dropped the bags off at a woman's home, allegedly at Victor DeGrate's request.
--- The woman subsequently told the Detroit Free Press that Bell out of the blue asked her to return the bags to the Lions, once they were publicly and embarrassingly revealed as Johnson's. When confronted about why he wouldn't bring them back himself, Bell reportedly told the woman that he had a workout in Houston and didn't have time. Bell never did try out for the Texans.
--- The woman did haul the bags back to the Lions facility, but, by then, they were missing clothing, cash and credit cards. The woman denied ever searching the bag's contents. Johnson declined to press charges.
--- Both DeGrate and DeGrate's mother, Wanda, have disputed Bell's story, saying DeGrate took all of his bags when he was released Aug. 30 and never requested help from Bell.
Bell has never publicly apologized for his actions. He vehemently proclaimed his innocence then went underground when details emerged contradicting his story.
From a strictly 'need' standpoint, Denver could definitely use the backfield help. There have been a slew of injuries. Bell has a solid relationship with running backs coach Bobby Turner, who was instrumental in drafting him No. 41 overall in the 2004 draft. Bell knows the system and can immediately be inserted into the lineup in at least the change-of-pace role that Selvin Young was supposed to provide Michael Pittman before Pittman and Young both were hurt.
But more than Xs and Os have to be taken into account. Bell's had a reputation for selfishness previously. He's also never been known as a particularly hard-worker behind the scenes. He's also periodically had fumbling issues.
Couple those less-than-stellar reputations with his actions on the way out of Detroit and it's clear the level of the Broncos desperation bringing him back.
Bell's carrying baggage, all right. It's up to him, perhaps in his final NFL chance, to shed it and earn back some trust.
--- Lee Rasizer