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Bell A Father Figure To Young Secondary

Posted Dec 7, 2011

Veteran leadership has been pivotal in the recent turnaround put together by the Miami Dolphins, especially in the secondary on defense.

Strong safety Yeremiah Bell is the father figure among Miami’s defensive backs for good reason. He is the longest-tenured Dolphin on the roster in consecutive seasons played (8) and the rest of that group is one of the youngest in the National Football League.

Six of Miami’s nine defensive backs are either in their third season or less, and that includes three of the four starters – cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith and free safety Reshad Jones. Only nickel cornerback Will Allen, who is in his 11th season overall and fifth with the Dolphins, has been in the league longer than Bell, which is why Head Coach Tony Sparano considers Bell like an extra coach out there on the field.

“He has had a tremendous impact out there on the young secondary. He keeps those guys in line pretty good back there,” Sparano said. “Between he and Will I think they’ve done a good job. YB is a captain and he has absolutely been a tremendous resource for me. He is a heck of a leader. He’s all right. He is one of my guys.”

When Bell came into the league as a rookie in 2004 he saw cornerback Sam Madison in the role he currently embraces and remembers how big of an impact Madison had on him. Even though Madison wasn’t a safety he had some of the characteristics that make up a good safety and that’s why Bell gravitated towards him.

As soon as he was chosen as one of the team’s four captains before this season began, Bell was aware of what kind of an impact he could have. He wanted to help Jones, Davis, Smith, backup free safety Chris Clemons, second-year cornerback Nolan Carroll and rookie cornerback Jimmy Wilson the same way Madison helped him.

“Definitely, I’m the senior member back there by a long shot,” said Bell, who is leading the team in tackles with 79 (61 solo). “It’s my job to get all those guys lined up and that should be on me, I wouldn’t want it to be on anybody else. I’ve been here the longest and been through the most and I’ve kind of seen a little bit of everything, so whatever input I can give those guys back there to help them with their game and things we might see is better for all of us.”

Bell is on track to surpass 100 tackles for the fourth straight season and he’s added a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery to go along with those tackles. When he talks to the media he’s rather soft-spoken, but his energy is visible on the field and his words carry a lot of weight with his teammates on offense as well as on defense.

Wide receiver Davone Bess is in his fourth season and he practices against Bell and the other defensive backs every day, including sixth-year free safety Tyrone Culver. Bell’s influence is easy for Bess to see on a daily basis.

“YB is smart, very smart, very savvy and very instinctive,” Bess said. “He’s what you want in a safety and he’s always around the young guys coaching them and fulfilling his role as a leader on this team. He always knows when the time is right what to say when times are hard, so I’m happy that he’s on the other side of the ball on our team.”

Bell is one of the better-conditioned players on the Dolphins and his workout regimen has drawn lots of praise from those on the team and others around the league. But it’s what he brings mentally to the game that has set him apart and helped earn him a trip to the Pro Bowl after the 2009 season.

It’s part of the natural order of things in professional football to see the torch passed from one veteran player to another young player at each position. Madison passed the torch to Bell when he left Miami to finish out his career with the New York Giants and Bell sees a couple of candidates on this roster worthy of taking over for him in Jones and Clemons. Jones was honored to hear that.

“It makes me feel real good coming from a guy like that who’s a Pro Bowl guy and has been in the league for a long time and seen a lot of guys come and go,” said Jones, who has registered 46 tackles (36 solo) and one sack in eight starts and 11 games this season. “Yeremiah was a big help to me coming in as far as learning the playbook and transitioning from college to the pros and I’m starting to become a more complete player thanks to him.”

Not only has Bell taken control on the practice field and in games but he is also the one that stands up in the meeting room and during film sessions. He takes pride in the fact that he can be just as vocal as the famously outgoing Madison was.

So while he did channel some of Madison early on in his role as one of the leaders in the secondary, Bell contends that it came natural to him. The improved play of the entire secondary is testament to that theory.

“I’m just not really outspoken in the media and all that, but when it comes to players and positions and the defensive backfield, those guys will tell you I’m not afraid to say anything,” he said. “That’s because I think it’s important to get it right and I’ve told them if I’m not doing something right they can jump on me because that’s how it should be back there.

“I think the way Is play, I think my energy just catches on to those guys and it’s fun to see because sometimes you may start out a game flat. You need that guy to get everybody’s engine revved up and I like being that guy. I want to be out there flying around and if it’s contagious then that’s just better for our football team.”