Brandon Bell — an underrated linebacker and leader on Penn State’s 2016 Big Ten championship-winning defense — is testing the NFL waters.
Bell, who went undrafted in April, latched on with the Cincinnati Bengals and holds a spot on their practice squad.
The mild-mannered ’backer joined us for this week’s “Five Questions” to discuss A.J. Green, the next Jason Cabinda and more.
Q: What’s it like being on the Bengals’ practice squad — is it hard? Rewarding? How would you describe this experience?
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A: Being at the next level, there’s a lot more demands mentally and, obviously, physically. I’m just grateful for the opportunity that I have. That doesn’t mean I’m not trying to build upon it and be out there playing. I’m grateful and do what I have to do to make my contributions to the team.
Q: Who’s the most freakish player you’ve seen in the league, and why? Is there one dude that’s stood out to you so far?
A: I’ve seen guys on gameday, but as far as who I see every day, day-in and day-out the past few months, I’d have to say A.J. Green for sure. LeSean McCoy was quick in the game we played, but day by day it’s A.J. Green. He’s just amazing.
Q: I’m sure you paid attention to the league when you were in college and high school. But now that you’ve been in the NFL for a bit, is it different at all from what you expected it’d be? What’s it like playing with some of these guys that maybe you didn’t grow up watching, but at least you’d see them on Sundays.
A: It’s not necessarily a total shocker, but when you sit back and think about it, “OK, wow, I’m going against A.J. Green in a coverage.” The difference is the mental toll and what they expect out of you. That goes along with the physical toll, like I said, but mentally it’s more taxing.
Q: I noticed you’re the only linebacker on the practice squad. What’s that like in terms of you being mentally prepared? Say someone on the roster gets seriously hurt; you might be called up to the 52-man.
A: That mindset, the coaches do a good job of harping on it. You ask anybody around here; you’re one play away. But definitely throughout the week, it’s a matter of being grateful for what I have, doing everything as if I was still playing. I’m still watching film and taking notes, special teams-wise and everything. Just to keep myself in that routine. If the opportunity does come, it won’t be a shock. I would know what to do.
Q: Jason Cabinda is the leader of the defense now, but who in your opinion is the next Jason Cabinda, the next Brandon Bell, the next guy that’ll come through Linebacker U as a remembered representative?
A: Shoot, well I’m not too familiar with the younger guys that are in there and I’m not sure how practice has been going. But as far as next year, with this being Jason’s last year, Manny Bowen is the first guy that stands out. Koa Farmer will have another year, too. But those guys I see stepping into bigger roles as far as taking over the defense and being complete leaders.