Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin has this message for Le’Veon Bell: If you stay healthy, if you stay humble, if you stay out of trouble, if you walk the talk, your bust will be alongside mine in Canton.
“For a guy like Le’Veon, it’s not about, ‘Can he make it to the Hall of Fame?’ ” Martin told The Post. “The only thing that’s stopped someone of his talent to make the Hall of Fame are off-the-field type things, or injury.
“He’s like an Adrian Peterson-like guy. Those guys, they don’t have to play 12, 13, 14 years to make it to the Hall of Fame if they just work hard and take care of business now. Like Adrian Peterson, he’ll eventually be in the Hall of Fame. And Le’Veon in the next generation of that.”
Sam Darnold was a drawing card for Bell, and now that he’s here, Martin promises to be the kind of security blanket for Bell everyone expects Bell to be for Darnold.
Bell idolized Martin growing up, and this is what Martin would tell him: “I’ve been through it all, I’ve seen it all. Don’t be shy about asking any questions whatsoever. I’m gonna help him to maximize his career on and off the field.
“More importantly, this is a man,” Martin said. “I see a lot of people getting caught up in the fame and fortune and getting lost in that. If I can be some type of big brother for him, great. I would welcome it with open arms.”
Saquon Barkley caught 91 passes as a rookie last season. Bell will help Darnold the way he helped Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.
“I think he’ll be one of those guys who averages between 75 and 95 receptions a year,” Martin said. “I think he becomes a huge safety net. He’s the one man that other teams are gonna have the most difficult time accounting for because it’s like how do you cover him? He produces like a receiver. A 2- or 3-yard run turns into 15-20 yards.”
Bell is just what coach Adam Gase ordered to help Darnold make that sweet innocent leap in his second year.
“He has to be happy because I think it makes his job much easier,” Martin said. “I believe a lot of the focus is gonna go to Le’Veon, and you have to account for him when you’re playing him because he’ll eat you up. He has that ability to change the game himself.”
What makes Le’Veon Bell, Le’Veon Bell?
“His vision and his patience, and then his ability to act on what he sees,” Martin said. “There’s a lot of running backs, you can tell like they’re really just focused on that guy in front of them. They don’t have that peripheral vision that makes a running back great. That’s his greatest asset.”
Bell has a different running style than Barkley.
“I think they both have all the ability in the world, but I think Le’Veon has a patient, wait-for-the-right-moment, pick-your-hole style. I haven’t seen a back, I don’t think in my life, that’s as patient as Le’Veon is.”
Bell conceded he will be rusty after his year layoff, but he and Martin expect him to chip it off in plenty of time.
“If he works hard, I think it’ll benefit him,” Martin said. “The way I see it is that at this stage of his career, if you get that year off of rest, it’s almost like getting two years back. But if you don’t work hard to really make up for any time that you missed, then it could be something that’s detrimental. I believe that he’s gonna work hard. I think he has every incentive to.”
Barkley was mature beyond his 21 years as the second pick of the draft. The Jets are keeping their fingers crossed that Bell — two NFL suspensions, one marijuana-related — has grown up.
Martin knows exactly how Bell can find love in New York.
“Be the hardest worker, and stay humble,” he said. “In New York, I think some bravado is good, you have to have a certain swagger about you. But, New York is a humbling place to play in, maybe you get injured or something … it can be a rough place to play.
“One thing I found about the New York fans, that if you are known as a hard worker, and they know that no matter what, you went out there and you gave your best every single day, I think that makes a difference, and if you can keep a certain humility about you. … I’m not saying be docile, but I would rather see him have an impact the way he did in Pittsburgh first before he kind of goes public, for lack of a better word.”
Bell talked about his family being Steelers fans in Ohio. But not him.
“I was really the only one who grew up a Curtis Martin fan loving the New York Jets, and I was always the one that was by myself.”
He won’t be by himself here.
Martin to Jets fans: “There’s not anything that the guy can’t do. He’s one of the best running back receivers in the league, he’s one of the best runners in the league. So you got the cream of the crop.”
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