Joique Bell would like to add kickoff returner to his repertoire in 2013
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Last season Bell established himself as the team's second-leading rusher and was fifth among all NFL running backs with 52 receptions ... could he excel as a kick returner in 2013?
RB Joique Bell
This time last year, Lions running back Joique Bell was still trying to prove he belonged in the NFL.
A journeyman through the early portion of his professional career, Bell bounced around to five different teams his first two years in the league trying to find a home to settle down in.
He landed in Detroit at the tail end of 2011. He proved he belonged during the 2012 season.
Bell was the Lions' second-leading rusher (414 yards) behind Mikel Leshoure last year and made even more of an impact as a receiver. He was fifth among all NFL running backs with 52 receptions for another 485 yards.
Bell established himself as a tough runner with good feet (5.0 average per rush) and a very capable receiver out of the backfield.
Despite such a season of individual success and -- really -- vindication, Bell says he's not done trying to prove himself.
"Every time I come here I still have a point to prove," Bell said. "I've always played that way, that's my hunger and my drive. In order to get something you've never had you have to do something you've never done. It's a challenge I'm accepting."
Bell finds himself in a much more crowded backfield this offseason with the additions of Reggie Bush and Theo Riddick. Bush, in all likelihood, will take away some of the receiving opportunities Bell had out of the backfield last season.
"My role is to help the team win," Bell said. "Last year, my role changed throughout the season from that 3rd-and-1 and 2nd-and-1 back used to get the first down to a role where I caught balls out of the backfield to one where I was returning kicks and covering kicks.
"Wherever coaches need me, that's where I'm at. I've always been a team player. It's never been about me. I think that's what kept me here this long."
The last of those roles he played last year could be of more significance in 2013. Bell replaced Stefan Logan as primary kickoff returner in the final game of the season vs. Chicago last year. He averaged 27 yards in two returns, though he did lose a fumble.
The Lions are looking to fill that role full-time in 2013 with Logan no longer on the team.
New special teams coach John Bonamego and Bell have a history from their days in New Orleans together at the start of the 2011 season.
"It's something I'm talking to coaches about," Bell said of trying to possibly win the full-time kickoff return spot. "I know (Bonamego's) system. He knows what I can do back there. We've even talked a couple times about where I'd like to go on special teams.
"I think once you've been in the league a certain number of years, (coaches) have a certain type of respect for certain players, especially players that have played for (them). They know what you're capable of and ask your advice on certain things as far as, 'Where do you think you'll be most successful at?'"
Competition breeds success in the NFL and Bell will have plenty in terms of the currently-vacant kickoff return role.
New rookies Darius Slay, Corey Fuller and Riddick should also get their opportunities to win the job.
Bell will have to prove himself to win a job once again – but that's nothing new for him.