Tatum Bell struggling to move on

August, 20, 2008
8/20/08
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Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
 
 Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images
 Tatum Bell was unhappy with his role in the Lions' offense in 2007.

It was no secret last season that veteran running back Tatum Bell chafed in the pass-happy offense Mike Martz ran with the Detroit Lions. Here's another revelation: Bell hasn't let it go.

In a story published Wednesday in the Detroit News, Bell reiterated his distaste for Martz and his offense. And although he appears to have fallen behind rookie Kevin Smith -- and possibly veteran Artose Pinner -- on the Lions' depth chart, Bell said his underwhelming preseason performance is not all his fault.

According to Bell, the Lions -- and Martz in particular -- never gave an explanation for why he received 15 carries in the season opener against Oakland (he rushed for 87 yards) and only 29 carries thereafter before he was essentially benched for the season.

Here's what Bell said in Wednesday's News:

"I am glad Martz is gone and you can tell him I said it, too. I think he played me. He was not honest with me as a man or as a coach and my position coach [Wilbert Montgomery] didn't have anything to say either. Nobody was telling me stuff."

Later, Bell added:

"I was so happy to get out of here after the last game. Playing for Martz last year, I hated it. You don't understand how hurt I was sitting on the sidelines and not getting that many carries. I mean, I started the season with like 15 carries and then I got like five carries [actually nine] against Minnesota. I know they are a good run-stop team, but that shows you we're scared of them. That ticked me off. How many starting running backs do you know get five carries in a game?"

Bell planned to leave the Lions during the offseason but returned only after Martz's departure. Coach Rod Marinelli promoted offensive line coach Jim Colletto to offensive coordinator and committed to a more balanced offense. But after opening training camp as the No. 1 running back, Bell hasn't impressed many observers; He has 17 yards on 12 carries in two preseason games.

Of his performance, he told the News:

"I had a bad game against the Giants but it just wasn't me. It was the line, too. The past game I ran a little better but there were no holes, so it looks like there's no running game. But if we keep pushing the issue as a group, we are going to get it going. I have had a solid camp and hopefully it translates into a good season."

That evaluation might well be accurate from a technical standpoint, but it probably won't win Bell many friends on the team. Even if it's true, no one appreciates a tailback speaking publicly about having no running room.

Bell's roster spot appears safe at this point, but there's reason to wonder if he -- and the Lions -- wouldn't be better off making a clean break at the end of the summer.

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