FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Le'Veon Bell has a unique running style. If he doesn't see immediate daylight, he waits ... waits ... and ... vroom. You can't argue with the results: He has more than 5,300 rushing yards in five seasons.
You might say he has taken the same approach to his first offseason with the New York Jets, training in South Florida in March ... April ... May ... and ... here he comes.
After skipping the voluntary workout phase, during which time he ignored the pleas of past and present teammate Steve McLendon and subjected himself to criticism from a new fan base, Bell is expected to report Tuesday to the Jets' mandatory minicamp. Because of his season-long contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers, this will be his first football practice in 17 months, raising the curiosity level to an unprecedented high for a June workout.
"Of course he will be in great shape," Pete Bommarito said Friday in a phone interview.
"I know once we hit training camp, he'll be ready to go." Jets coach Adam Gase on running back Le'Veon Bell
Bommarito, the president of Bommarito Performance Systems, is Bell's personal trainer, which means he has spent more time with the star running back than Jets coach Adam Gase. Bommarito is the mastermind behind Bell's offseason program -- a comprehensive, scientific regimen that includes everything from 40-yard sprints to Pilates to banded TKEs (terminal knee extensions) for quadriceps development. Bell also has access to a nutritionist, a massage therapist and an acupuncturist; if he wants to grab a meal, there's an in-house chef ready to prepare his order.
Think: Pumping iron at the Ritz.
Bell has been training with Bommarito in North Miami, Florida, since he came out of Michigan State in 2013, and the running back didn't want to disrupt his routine after signing a four-year, $52 million contract with the Jets. Bell has caught some flak for skipping practice with his new teammates, but it's not like he is wasting time by taking leisurely jogs along Ocean Drive in South Beach.
He spends up to five hours a day, sometimes five days a week, at Bommarito's facility. Each day begins with an appointment in the medical room, where his joint alignment is checked out. Based on the results, Bommarito can adjust his daily script for Bell, who currently is in the high-specificity phase of his training cycle -- drills that include a lot of running back-style motion.
Bell always shows up wearing his game face, according to Bommarito.
"He's highly intelligent and he definitely knows what we're doing," said Bommarito, who has trained running backs such as Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Forte and Frank Gore. "He knows my philosophy, and he has bought into the approach that we sold him. That's what makes him great. He's got the talent, but he's so serious about how he takes care of his body. That's what makes him elite.
"It isn't about work ethic; anyone can work themselves into the ground. It's about the focus on the little things during the high-intensity training, understanding that everything counts. Le'Veon is so focused that a bomb could go off and he wouldn't even notice."
Gase claimed he doesn't mind that Bell has been away from the team, saying he figured that would be the case based on his recent history. In his next breath, Gase acknowledged it's easier to disseminate information to players and correct their mistakes when they're at practice and in the classroom. Bell watches practice video on his computer tablet, which is fine, but he can't interact with his coaches and teammates.
"I know he feels comfortable with [Bommarito], which I'm good with because I know once we hit training camp, he'll be ready to go," Gase said.
McLendon, a defensive tackle who played with Bell from 2013 to 2015, called him recently to say he was needed at practice. In particular, McLendon stressed the importance of building chemistry with second-year quarterback Sam Darnold, whose development is paramount to the organization.
"I told him, 'You understand, this place is different than Pittsburgh. You need to get back here and understand your quarterback and the situation,'" McLendon said.
McLendon's appeal didn't work. He said he respected Bell's decision, knowing the kind of impact Bell can make once he does arrive.
"I know what I've seen in the past from him," McLendon said. "I understand he sat out a year, but for a running back, that's good, especially with all the hits they take. I can say this: He's still going to be fast; he's still going to be shifty. I'm excited for him to come back."
Former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Bell "always came to camp in phenomenal shape, 218 or 219 pounds." Haley doesn't expect that to change now. If anything, he suspects Bell will be more motivated than ever.
"He's a highly competitive guy and an extremely hard worker," Haley said. "Besides AB [Antonio Brown], nobody came in and looked in better condition, and he did most of it on his own because I don't know if he was ever there for much of the offseason except his rookie year. He'll have a chip on his shoulder, and he's very talented. It'll be interesting in New York. It'll be fun to watch."
If you watch Bell's Instagram stories, you can see some of his on-field workouts. A couple of weeks ago, he did speed training with 30-, 40-, 50- and 60-yard sprints. A lot of players say they never run 40s once they get into the NFL; Bommarito believes running backs need an extra gear once they get to the second level. Last week, Bell focused on resistance running (a band attached to his waist) and a jump-cut drill that simulated a typical running play.
"It's not like we have to teach him how to cut -- he's already got that pattern down -- but it's a great training mechanism for the muscles across the ankle joint, the joint to the feet and the joint to the knee," said Bommarito, who has a master's degree in exercise science with a specialization in sports biomechanics. "You have to get those stabilizing muscles strong if you're going to withstand and sustain a whole season.
"That type of threshold training works very well with NFL running backs, especially taller running backs like Le'Veon. They respond well to that because, even though he's tall [6-foot-1], he plays low. The feet angles and the ankle angles are at such a great angle that you have to make sure those muscles surrounding those joints are strong."
Bell will break his routine to take a trip up to New Jersey for three days of minicamp practice. Finally, football.