ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -Thrown out of work in Detroit, tailback Tatum Bell was studying cell phone rate plans rather than a play book.
After his unceremonious release by the Lions in September, Bell was hired as a manager to run a T-Mobile kiosk inside a Denver area mall. There, in a tiny booth located just across from the Disney Store, Bell waited for a second chance, not really expecting one anytime soon.
When the Denver Broncos called seven weeks ago after a barrage of injuries besieged their backfield, he shelved his cell phone career for carries. Now, he's the only experienced tailback left on a team trying to capture the division crown Sunday night at San Diego.
He's just thankful for another opportunity.
oit before the '07 season. ``When I got released, it opened my eyes to the real world. I was just hoping for another chance.''
Not this soon, though. Not after what happened in Detroit.
Bell was captured on camera removing two Gucci bags belonging to Rudi Johnson - who was taking his place - soon after being waived by the Lions. He feared the embarrassing incident might haunt him.
But coach Mike Shanahan backed Bell, saying he's ``judging Tatum by how he handled himself when he was a Denver Bronco and my relationship with him over the time he's been here, not (on) all the accusations ... over there.''
For that, Bell is appreciative.
Still, the baggage incident tarnished his reputation, something he's trying to repair.
``That was a bad part of my life, trying times,'' he said. ``I've moved on.''
So has Johnson, whose team is attempting to avoid a winless season this weekend at Green Bay.
``I got my stuff back,'' said Johnson, who spoke with Bell after the situation and didn't involve the police in the matter.
Bell expected the teasing in the locker room, and is constantly razzed by center Tom Nalen.
``Tom messes with me (when) he sees me, saying, 'Put your stuff up, here comes Tatum,''' Bell said, able to smile now. ``I just needed a second chance.''
, Bell went scrambling for work, not wanting to wallow around. He found a job listing for a sales position for Mobile Solutions, a company authorized to sell T-Mobile phones.
He zipped off an application.
Danny Perry, the market director for the company, originally thought it was a joke.
``Tatum Bell wants to sell cell phones?'' Perry said. ``We laughed at it.''
No joke, though.
Perry brought in Bell for an interview, even asking him about the baggage incident in Detroit.
``He told me what happened,'' Perry said. ``It was a believable story. I believed him. He said he had a huge chunk of humble pie. I was willing to give him a try.''
So he hired Bell not as a sales associate but a leader of his squad, thinking his experience in the NFL would make him a marvelous manager.
It didn't take him long to earn respect, showing up for work 20 minutes early.
``He got everyone on the same page and made it a team immediately,'' Perry said.
Bell proved to be a solid salesman, increasing sales in the 45 days he had the position. His salary would've been approximately $60,000, a far cry from what he is getting in the NFL, which is a prorated portion of his base salary that's around $605,000.
``The pay checks are obviously different,'' Bell said, grinning.
ones was learning the different plans. There were so many variations, just like an offense.
``That was challenging at first,'' Bell said. ``Once I got the plans down, my pitch wasn't anything. I'm people friendly.''
So, how did he get customers to make the switch over to T-Mobile?
``I'd say, 'Excuse me, sir, how are you doing? What kind of phone service are you carrying?''' Bell explained. ``They'd be like, 'Sprint.' I'd say, 'Why are you carrying Sprint? You're paying too much.' Once I got them over to the kiosk, I felt like I had them.''
He hasn't taken long to grasp the Broncos play book. Then again, he had a base knowledge, spending his first three seasons with Denver.
Bell has been thrust into more of a role with every back that goes down. He can't believe the amount of injuries that have struck the team. This week, Selvin Young and P.J. Pope became the sixth and seventh tailbacks to go on injured reserve.
The only other tailbacks the Broncos have available are Cory Boyd, just signed off the practice squad, and Alex Haynes, who was picked up earlier this week. Spencer Larsen, who's played linebacker and fullback this season, could see some reps at running back.
``This is crazy,'' Bell said of the injuries. ``Everybody is shocked.''
Not anymore.
terback Jay Cutler said. ``It seems like we only get a running back in there for a few series, and then they're out. We've still got Tatum.''
That's a player the Chargers know well. Bell had a career-high three touchdowns against the Chargers on Dec. 31, 2005.
``They have a guy back there that we feel has some ability, some great abilities in Tatum Bell,'' Chargers defensive lineman Luis Castillo said. ``Denver has always found a way to run the ball, regardless of who's back there.''
---
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Detroit contributed to this report.

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