Bell isn't the first high-profile running back to skip an entire season

By Michael Shapiro
November 09, 2018

Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell has held firm in his holdout for a new contract this season. After missing Pittsburgh's first nine games, Bell did not report to the Steelers by the Nov. 13 deadline, making him ineligible to play the remainder of the 2018 season. Bell is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Bell's extended absence is rare, but he wouldn't be the first NFL player to hold out the entire season if he opts to stay away from the AFC North leader. Check out four of the most notable year-long holdouts below. 

John Riggins:

The Hall of Famer sat out the entire 1980 season, returning to his home in Kansas after nine seasons. The Redskins wouldn't renegotiate his $300,000 contract, so Riggins opted to walk away from football, noting the toll it took on his body. But the pseudo-retirement ended in 1981. Riggins returned for five more seasons, famously saying before his return in 1981, "I’m broke and I’m back." Riggins led the NFL in rushing touchdowns in 1983 and 1984. 

Sean Gilbert:

Gilbert sat out the entire 1997 season, protesting the franchise tag placed on him by the Redskins. After a year-long standoff, Washington budged in April, shipping the 1993 Pro Bowler to Carolina for two first-round picks. Gilbert subsequently signed a seven-year, $46.5 million deal with the Panthers, tallying 15.5 sacks over the next five seasons. 

Bo Jackson:

Jackson's holdout came before he took a snap in the NFL. After being selected by Tampa Bay with the No. 1 pick in 1986, the dual-sport athlete held out for a better franchise, spending a season with the Kansas City Royals. Jackson re-entered the draft in 1987, this time being drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders.

Kelly Stouffer:

The No. 6 overall pick in the 1987 draft, Stouffer skipped what would have been his rookie year due to a contract dispute with Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell. After a year of negotiations, Bidwell budged, trading Stouffer to the Seahawks in March 1988. Stouffer went 5–11 as a starter over four seasons, ending his carer with seven touchdowns and 19 interceptions. 

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