|RB Tatum Bell surprised to be back with the Lions|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 24 July 2008 23:12|
``I would've bet everything I had that I wouldn't be a Detroit Lion this year,'' Bell said Thursday after the opening day of training camp. ``I know for a fact if Mike Martz was here, I wouldn't be here.''
The Lions and Martz parted ways during the offseason, and the pass-happy offensive coordinator was hired by the San Francisco 49ers.
After running for nearly 2,000 yards and scoring 10 times over two seasons in Denver, Bell had a solid Detroit debut last season under Martz with 87 yards rushing and a touchdown in a win over the Oakland Raiders.
He started the next four games before being benched for the rest of the season, losing his job and carries to Kevin Jones and T.J. Duckett, both of whom are ex-Lions. Jones was cut and signed by the Chicago Bears and Duckett wasn't re-signed and landed with the Seattle Seahawks.
``Martz was the only person that had a problem with me. He never told me why I wasn't playing and that's the only thing that bothers me to this day,'' Bell said. ``In training camp before KJ got back, I was his guy. When KJ got back, I went from starter to scout team.''
As bitter as Bell was and still is, he kept relatively quiet last season and that ended up helping him sign a one-year deal in March to return to the Lions.
``I really respected how he handled last year and what he went through,'' Detroit coach Rod Marinelli said. ``He was a pro all the way.
``This system that we're in right now is what he was used to in Denver. I think he's got a great opportunity. He's in tremendous shape. He's lean and he's fast. We're counting on him.''
Bell said persistent calls from offensive coordinator Jim Colletto, assistant head coach Kippy Brown and running backs coach Sam Gash persuaded him to return.
``They kept calling me saying 'We want you back. Martz is gone. We're going to run the zone scheme you ran in Denver,''' Bell recalled. ``At first, it was going in one ear and out the other. But then I started listening, and I got excited.''
Bell will likely be the No. 1 running back when the season begins Sept. 7 in Atlanta, but he might have to hold off rookie Kevin Smith to keep it the rest of the season.
The third-round pick ran for 2,567 yards last year - just 62 short of breaking Barry Sanders' NCAA record - and scored 30 times.
``It's a good feeling being a part of a team that wants to run the zone and run it to death like I did at UCF,'' Smith said. ``I'm not going to forget about how to run the football. It might be a lot tougher, but I'm going to run it until the wheels fall off.''
Lions quarterback Jon Kitna knows he will be handing the ball off much more than he did in the previous two seasons under Martz, but he's looking forward to directing a run-first offense.
``It's a great philosophy to have,'' he said. ``I think Coach Martz kind of gets a bum rap that way, but we're going to have more emphasis on it and we're going to be more committed to it. I'm excited to see how it plays out. I think it'll help everybody.''