The star running back didn't touch the ball for the first 25 minutes of the second half and finished with one of his worst rushing days of the season in the Jets' 13-6 win over the Buffalo Bills at New Era Stadium.
Afterward, Bell and coach Adam Gase had a private conversation in the locker room before the media were allowed in, sources said.
"It's been a different season, that's all you can say about it," Bell said, speaking in clipped sentences.
"I didn't break 1,000 yards. It's disappointing. Obviously, that's a marker that every running back kind of [aspires to] -- 1,000 yards. It didn't happen this year. I have to work harder and get better for next year."
Blessed for another year. I want to thank Jets fans for embracing me all season. I put everything into every snap this season & hope you all are proud of how I repped the Green & White. Things didn't go as planned for many reasons, but can't wait to get working & keep moving fwd. pic.twitter.com/Y2Uxg75fQw— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) December 29, 2019
Bell, 27, rushed for at least 1,000 yards in three of his five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, coming up short only when he missed games due to injuries and/or suspensions.
Projected to be an offensive catalyst for the Jets, Bell finished with 789 rushing yards -- averaging 3.2 yards per carry, easily the least productive season of his career.
He had become a bigger part of the offense in the previous two games, but he had only 16 carries for 41 yards against the Bills, who rested many of their starters.
"We were just trying to play all the guys," said Gase, explaining why Bell wasn't a factor in the second half. "We were just trying to play everybody. I wouldn't look into that too much. I mean, he had 26 touches or something like that."
Actually, it was 21 touches, including five receptions for 36 yards.
Clearly, Bell didn't want to spend too much time on it after the game.
"It don't matter," Bell said. "We won the game. That's all that matters."
Though Gase didn't want to get into specifics, the Jets switched to receiver-heavy packages because quarterback Sam Darnold felt they gave him a cleaner picture of the defense. In fact, they ran seven plays without a running back, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That explains Bell's low usage. In the end, he still wound up playing 44 snaps, compared to 19 for the other running backs.
Bell has been a good soldier through this difficult season, although he did express frustration with his role on two occasions. On Friday, he was upbeat about his future, saying, "I wouldn't have signed here for four years if I didn't want to be here four years."
The Jets (7-9) might try to trade him in the offseason, although it won't be easy because his 2020 salary and bonuses ($13.5 million) are fully guaranteed.
"I look forward to the offseason, obviously, getting better and getting in crazy shape and building on what we got," Bell said.
Bell, who historically doesn't participate in the voluntary portion of the offseason program, was noncommittal on whether he'd attend this spring. He sounded fairly optimistic about the team, which won six of eight after a 1-7 start.
"We're starting to get the ship sailing in the right direction," Bell said. "I think we started finding our groove and exactly what our image is going to be. It took multiple games to do. Once we found it, we've been playing good football, and we won the game."