MIKE O'HARA

Joique Bell: 'I get mental reps every play'

Posted May 29, 2014

Joique Bell hasn’t caught any passes or carried the ball in the Lions’ OTA practices, but he isn’t taking any plays off, either.

Joique Bell hasn’t caught any passes or carried the ball in the Lions’ OTA practices, but he isn’t taking any plays off, either.

He keeps his mind in the game, even while his body is keeping him from participating physically.

Joique BellRB Joique Bell (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Bell and Reggie Bush are expected to combine to give the Lions one of the NFL’s top running-back duos again like they did last year, but Bell is being held out of practice while he recovers from a knee injury.

Even though he isn’t running through drills with his teammates, Bell is not an idle spectator in practice.

“I get mental reps every play,” Bell said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’m not just out there watching them practice. I get mental reps during our drills with our quarterback. I walk through with the 7-on-7.

“I take mental reps on every single play. Mental reps are just as important as going out there and getting physical reps.”

A quick take on the tailback position: The Lions have built depth there, with support behind Bell and Bush.

Bush and Bell combined for 2,679 yards and 15 TDs last year. Bush rushed for 1,006 yards and 4 TDs; Bell gained 650 yards and 8 TDs. Bush added 54 catches for 506 yards and 3 TDs; Bell had 53 catches for 547 yards without a score.

Competing behind them for depth at tailback are Theo Riddick, who showed promise as a rookie, and Mikel Leshoure, who’s looking to establish himself as part of the rotation after getting only two carries last year.

The Lions thought enough of Bell to sign him in March to a three-year contract worth a reported $9.3 million to keep him from entering the market as a restricted free agent.

Bell’s body will tell him when it’s time to practice.

“I’m going to give you my exact timetable,” he said. “My timetable is, I’m working as hard as I can to get back as soon as I can. As soon as I feel I’m at a position where I can go out there and I won’t hurt myself, that’s when I’ll be back out there.”

Bell spent time in New Orleans, where new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was an assistant, and he played for head coach Jim Caldwell in Indianapolis. That experience should have given him a jump on his teammates in learning a new offense.

“I’m not going to say it was relatively easy, but it was easier than (it was) for most of the other players,” Bell said. “A lot of it came back to me as we kept going over it. Definitely, it’s a lot like New Orleans, but at the same time there’s a lot of stuff we did last year that we were really good at.

“We have the ability on this team to do what we want to in order to win games. If we want to run, we’re going to run. In the past they said the Lions didn’t have a running game. We have a running game now.”