Switching sides: Safety Yeremiah Bell moves from Dolphins side of rivalry to Jets
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Yeremiah Bell had his mind pretty much made up. He just needed a little reassurance about switching sides in the Dolphins-Jets rivalry.
So, the hard-hitting safety called someone who knows all about going behind enemy lines from Miami to New York: Jason Taylor.
"He told me it's a great organization to come to and that everyone welcomes you with open arms," Bell said a week after signing with the Jets. "He enjoyed his time here. There wasn't anything negative."
Taylor signed with the Jets in 2010 after spending 12 of his first 13 seasons with the Dolphins — and having a mostly contentious relationship with New York fans during that time. He had a solid season with the Jets, getting five sacks and cheers from the fans who once booed him, before heading back to the Dolphins for a final season.
The 34-year-old Bell wasn't nearly the villain Taylor was in Jets fans' eyes, but playing eight years in Miami certainly qualified him to be considered an enemy. All of that stuff doesn't matter now, though, especially since Bell is coming to the Jets to be a major contributor in Rex Ryan's defence after being cut by the Dolphins in March to create cap space.
"It wasn't difficult at all," Bell said of fitting in with his old rivals. "I looked at it as a great transition and everyone has made it easier here.
"But I can't tell you I am not looking forward to playing the Dolphins."
The Jets certainly are happy they don't have to face Bell anymore. He has had four straight seasons with at least 100 tackles, and racked up 61 tackles and five passes defenced in 14 career games against New York.
"I think it's great for us," cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "The coaches were talking about him prior to getting him. We know what type of player he is. He's been a Pro Bowl player in the past and he's a great player who had a lot of success down in Miami. We're excited."
And, the feeling is mutual for Bell, who'll join a solid secondary that's led by Revis — who had two interceptions against the Dolphins last season, including one he returned 100 yards for a touchdown.
"Playing with him is going to be a pleasure," Bell said. "I am already seeing that. He's the best corner in the league, a guy you don't have to tell what to do. You know he will do it. I can already see why he's so good."
Bell picked off a pass thrown by Tim Tebow over the middle during 7-on-7 drills in the first session of organized team activities open to the media Thursday.
"I'm joining a defence that is one of the best," said Bell, who's reunited with his former coach Tony Sparano — now the Jets' offensive co-ordinator. "I was able to see that with the Dolphins. I know how effective the defence has been here for the Jets since Rex has been here. He wants to put you in a position to do your best and that's what I am looking forward to doing."
Bell is slated to step in and start for the Jets, and his signing — a one-year contract worth $1.4 million — is looking even more important lately with LaRon Landry not attending any of the voluntary OTA sessions so far. Landry, recovering from a foot injury that cut short his season with the Redskins last year, is also taking care of what Revis said the players were told was "a family issue."
So, for now, Bell is playing in the secondary opposite Eric Smith, a starter last season.
"Yeremiah is an outstanding player," Ryan said. "So I like the looks of that first group there with Eric and Yeremiah Bell. It looks tremendous to me."
Bell played mostly inside with the Dolphins, and is considered mainly a strong safety. But he thinks he's also versatile enough to play in coverage in New York's defence.
"Safeties here play both sides, so it isn't strong safety or free safety, and you have to do the job for both sides," Bell said. "It's up to you to be holding down your side. I like this defence, it lets you do a lot of things. With Miami, that defence I was mostly an in-the-box player and a run defender, a lot of stuff in front of me. Here, it's more a mix where you help guys on the outside. They rely a lot from the guys in coverages in the secondary."
Notes: Ryan said the signing of Bell won't eliminate the possibility of a return by Jim Leonhard, a free agent who is recovering from a torn patellar tendon that cut short his season. "I don't think Jim Leonhard is done as a football player," Ryan said Thursday. "I think it's a huge challenge for him. Anytime you're overcoming a significant injury, it's going to be a big challenge, but I think we all know Jim Leonard, and I definitely would not bet against him." ... NT Sione Pouha and his wife Keiti donated $50,000 to the University of Utah's "Invest in Excellence" campaign for the Utes' new football complex. The alumni locker room of the centre, scheduled to open for the 2013 season, will bear Pouha's name. He played for Utah from 2001-04 before being drafted in the third round by the Jets in 2005.