It didn't take Joshua Bell long to understand that being a weak side halfback in a passing league like the CFL wasn't going to be an easy job.
That realization put a smile on the face of the second-year B.C. Lion.
"More is better for me," Bell said after the Lions' practised for their game Friday against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
|Answering the Bell|
"You are licking your chops as a defensive back. You want more opportunities to get the ball thrown to you. That means more opportunities for interceptions."
Bell had one of his best games of the season Sunday when the Lions used a last-play, 42-yard field goal by Paul McCallum to defeat the Saskatchewan Roughriders 24-22.
The six-foot, 177-pound native of Los Angeles pelted the Riders like a prairie hail storm. He collected five tackles, two of them for a loss of yards, and had a pair of big knocks against sure-handed Saskatchewan receivers Chris Getzlaf and Taj Smith.
Always a perfectionist, Bell believes one reason he was so busy is because he made some technical mistakes that Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant tried to exploit.
"I gave them a window of opportunity and Durant took it," he said. "I was able to be in position when the ball got there to make the play."
Bell brings speed and aggression to a veteran Lions' secondary. He also is a cerebral player who spends hours in the film room watching receivers, learning their tendencies.
"He's young and hungry," said Mark Washington, B.C.'s defensive backs coach. "He's not afraid to sling his body around.
"The biggest attribute to his game is he studies the game. He understands what the receivers are going to do from studying."
The 28-year-old Bell has 33 tackles and one interception this season. Washington praised his ability to adapt to the Canadian game with its longer, wider field and different rules.
"Every rule in this league is pitted against you" as a defensive back, said Washington.
"All the different skills and all the different things you have been taught in the U.S., when you come up here you have to lose them."
Bell said the biggest adjustment hasn't been the extra man or the more ground to cover. For him, it's getting used to receivers being able to start running toward the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped.
"The waggle is a whole different world," he said with a laugh. "That speeds your heart rate up.
"The waggle is something you really have to adjust to. It's almost like you are playing chicken with the receiver."
Bell spent time with both the NFL Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers before joining the Lions as a free agent in May 2012. He spent 13 games on the reserve list, and another three on the injured list, but still managed to be noticed by the coaches.
"It's not the fact he was here, it was the way he was here," said Washington. "He worked hard every day.
"He was on the scout team doing his job. He was the first guy in every meeting. That lets you know what kind of person he is, what kind of professional he is. That shows he wants to be here. He wants to contribute any way he can."
Bell admits it wasn't easy playing only two games last year. He didn't dress for B.C.'s Western Final loss against Calgary.
"It was difficult but you still prepared every week like you were going to get ready to play," he said.
"As a positive person, as an optimist, you have to turn around and get your positives out of every situation. You can't mope and complain about anything. You have to keep priming yourself for whatever situation is available."
The Lions have moved into a tie with Saskatchewan for second place in the CFL West behind the Calgary Stampeders.
This week's game will be B.C.'s first at the new Investors Group Field in Winnipeg. To compensate for the stadium noise the Lions practiced with loud speakers blaring rock music.
"I expect them to come out with a lot of enthusiasm," said Bell. "They will be fired up and ready to knock off another giant.
"They are coming out ready to gun and give us everything they have."
Thomas DeMarco will get his second straight start in place of injured quarterback Travis Lulay. The game will also the first for backup quarterback Buck Pierce in Winnipeg since being traded to the Lions on Sept. 8.
"It’s going to be a fun atmosphere, it's a great place to play," said Pierce, who led Winnipeg to the 2011 Grey Cup. "I'm excited to see the fans again."
Pierce, who played two series against the Riders, said he could play against Winnipeg if needed.
"It's all depending on the flow of the game," he said. "We will play it by ear. I will be more prepared. I will be ready to go if called upon."
Bell played his college football at Baylor. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the San Diego Chargers in 2008 but was released prior to the start of the season. He was signed by the Broncos and eventually played in nine games, collecting 34 tackles.
After being released by the Broncos, Bell joined the Packers where he spent the 2010 season on the injured reserve list. Green Bay defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 to win the Super Bowl that season but Bell wasn't given a ring.
"That's how the cookie crumbles," he shrugged. "Life throws you a lot of lemons. You make lemonade out of them.
"It doesn't take the fact away I was a member of that Super Bowl champion team. I still walk with my head held high about the accomplishment, being part of that organization, putting in the work all year long to reach that goal."