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USA Today

New Buccaneers running back Le'Veon Bell paused for several seconds when asked if he had recently considered retirement. Bell, who was signed by the Buccaneers on Tuesday after news broke that running back Leonard Fournette is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with an injury, had remained unsigned after the Ravens released him on November 16. 

It's been a tumultuous three-plus seasons for Bell, a two-time All-Pro during his five active seasons with the Steelers. The Buccaneers will be Bell's fourth team since the start of the 2019 season. Bell (who sat out the entire 2018 season over a contract dispute with the Steelers) admitted on Wednesday that his recent stint in Baltimore very well could have been his last stop. He said that his unsuccessful stints in New York, Kansas City and Baltimore could have led to his retirement. 

"I'm not going to lie, I got to the point where I had thought about kind of calling it quits," Bell told the media on Wednesday, via ESPN's Jenna Laine. "Just because of the fact that it wasn't working out for me. ... This was literally the only spot that I felt like made me want to play football and go out there and be excited to play. 

"I think this is a great opportunity. It's something you can't really turn down playing for Coach Arians, Tom Brady, and obviously AB. They've got a good thing over here. I'll come over here and try to help and do my thing." 

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Bell was even more transparent was asked about the process of waiting for his next opportunity and how that wait has fueled his desire to continue playing.

"It was one of the worst feelings in the world, honestly," said Bell, who used boxing to stay in shape during his layoff. "Knowing what I can do and how much I do have left in the game I love and have been playing my whole life. It's tough when it's not really kind of going the way you envisioned it. The last three, four years have definitley been tough. It kind of humbled me in a real good way. It made me work so much harder. I know how bad that I want it, to help a team win and to show people that I can still play football and that I'm a great football player. 

"I think just that will and desire and the last couple years of humbleness kind of helped me out. I'm just looking forward to finishing this year out right and seeing what we can do." 

Buccaneers offensive tackle Ryan Jensen had an up-close view of Bell in his heyday when Jensen was a member of the Ravens from 2014-17. Jensen feels that the 29-year-old version of Bell fits well with the Buccaneers' offensive scheme. Along with Bell (who will wear No. 6 for the Buccaneers), Baltimore's offense will welcome the return of Antonio Brown, Bell's former teammate in Pittsburgh who is returning from his three-game suspension. 

"It's huge," Jensen said of the addition of Bell. "I feel like he really fits our offensive scheme when it comes to the run game. A lot of the stuff he did really well in Pittsburgh is the same concepts of run that we do here. Excited to see what what he can do for us." 

While he was mostly stoic during his media session, Bell's eyes light up when asked about receiving the call to play with the defending world champions. Bell was on the opposite sideline when the Buccaneers defeated the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. 

"Once you get that phone call, it's like, 'Ah, yes, this is it,'" Bell said. "It's just something that I didn't think twice about. Once I got the call, I was like, 'Yes, let's go.' ... This is the best physical form I've ever been in in my life. I'm excited."