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NFL reduces ban for Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell to 2 games

Ed Bouchette
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The NFL on Tuesday reduced the suspension of halfback Le’Veon Bell from three games to two, a ban that stemmed from his arrest on marijuana charges last August.

Bell will be eligible to play against the St. Louis Rams on the road Sept. 27. He will miss the opener Sept. 10 at New England and the home opener Sept. 20 against San Francisco.

He had appealed his three-game suspension, and while it is not known what basis he and his representatives used in that meeting, Bell appeared to be caught between a previous drug policy and one the NFL adopted last September.

Bell was charged both with possession of marijuana and for a DUI because he was driving the vehicle with then-teammate LeGarrette Blount as a passenger. They were stopped by Ross, Pa., police on Aug. 20 hours before they were to board the Steelers’ charter at Pittsburgh International for a flight to Philadelphia and the third preseason game.

Bell in February was admitted into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for first-time offenders that will lead to the marijuana charges and DUI filed against him to being dismissed if successfully completed. The NFL, however, considers that a plea bargain, and those are considered convictions by the league.

Under the old NFL drug policy, a conviction for using marijuana could draw a one-game suspension but a DUI would not. Under the new NFL drug policy adopted in September, using a small amount of marijuana would not draw a suspension for the first time but a DUI would carry a two-game suspension.

Blount, who now plays for the New England Patriots, accepted the NFL’s one-game suspension without an apparent appeal. While Bell appealed, he has said many times that he would accept whatever discipline the NFL ultimately decided.

Bell led the AFC with 1,361 yards rushing last season, his second with the Steelers, and earned All-Pro honors. He also caught a team-record 83 receptions for another 854 yards. Those 2,215 yards combined set another team record. His teammates elected him their MVP last season.

The Steelers signed veteran halfback DeAngelo Williams as a free agent from the Carolina Panthers to back up Bell. Williams will likely start those first two games.