Le'Veon Bell's venture into boxing may be more than just a temporary detour from football.
The former Pittsburgh Steelers running back, scheduled to face fellow NFL running back Adrian Peterson on July 30, said in a news conference promoting the fight that he does not plan to play football this upcoming season in order to focus on his incipient boxing career.
Asked about transitioning from professional football to boxing, Bell had this to say:
"It's definitely been a grind. It's been a challenge I've been willing to accept, something I took on. Boxing is something that they always say it's something you can't play boxing. Last year, I almost sat out the whole year to try to focus on boxing because I kind of knew that was what I wanted to transition to.
"This year, I know I'm not going to be playing this year, because I want to focus on boxing. So this transition for me has kind of been like another opportunity for me. I'm just ready to showcase what I'm about."
It has been three years since the 30-year-old Bell spent a full NFL season playing for a single team and five years since his last 1,000-rushing yard season.
His post-Steelers career, starting off with his famous contract holdout in 2018, has seen him disappoint on a $52.5 million contract with the New York Jets while feuding with head coach Adam Gase, then see dwindling playing time with the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
According to Bell, he nearly sat out last year to focus on boxing, though the Ravens' desperation at running back might have provided too good an opportunity to refuse. He will instead focus on boxing this year, and he insisted there is more to come after his bout with Peterson:
"This is not just a one-off. This is, I guess, like my introduction to kind of show what I've been doing and how I've been going about myself. Just an intro."
Bell isn't the only former Steelers star who has said he won't play football this year, as Antonio Brown said he will do the same after a contentious exit from the Buccaneers. Rather than box, Brown is focusing on his rap career.
As for the 37-year-old Peterson, he also said boxing was "something I could definitely see myself doing going forward."
Peterson did not play an NFL game last season until November, when he was signed by a Tennessee Titans team looking to replace Derrick Henry, played three games, got cut, then signed with the Seattle Seahawks for one more game.