"I'm good, I feel great," he said after signing a seven-year deal for around $35 million with $10 million in guaranteed money. The Chiefs hope he's as good as his word.
When healthy, like he was in his 2001 first season when he was the NFL's defensive rookie of the year, Bell can be a dominating force. Quick, explosive and tough, he had nine sacks and 82 tackles as an inside backer in the Steelers 3-4 defense. The Chiefs will likely play him inside, where they had trouble tackling people last year, but like his versatility and potential to play all three positions in their 4-3.
But a season-long battle with a high ankle sprain, and his attempt to come back too quickly, caused Bell to miss four games in '02 and play at less than full speed in 12 others. He recovered enough in '03 to make 100 tackles with five sacks and win Pro Bowl alternate status. But a groin injury and subsequent hernia surgery in '04 limited him to three games and essentially made him expendable in Pittsburgh's defensive plans.
Bell believes he's more a victim of bad-luck than injury prone.
"I've played well in the past, but unfortunately, I made decisions that led me to re-injure myself," he said after signing with the Chiefs. "A lot of those decisions came out of frustration.
"I was trying to be a team player (in returning from the '02 ankle injury), but I got re-injured. It hurt us in the end when I could have contributed. The groin injury (last year) I got in the offseason in the weight room."
The Chiefs believe the injuries are not part of a pattern, which is why they shelled out $10 million in guaranteed bonus money for their first free agent addition.
"He's healthy enough that I feel good about it," said team president Carl Peterson. "We took the time to do an extensive physical, and from what my medical people tell us, I'm comfortable with the contract."
The Chiefs were openly unhappy when the Kansas City Star, attempting to explain the delay in signing highly coveted free-agent cornerback Samari Rolle, said the Chiefs were concerned about overpaying for a player with a lifelong spinal condition.
At his signing a day later with Baltimore, Rolle acknowledged that he was born with a narrowing of the spinal column, but that he has played successfully all his life with the condition.
Still, Rolle and his representatives blamed the Chiefs for the release of medical information during a period of negotiations.
Chiefs president Carl Peterson steadfastly denied the club's involvement in the leak.
"I don't know where that came from or how it got into the media, but that certainly played a major role in his decision to go in a different direction to Baltimore," Peterson said. "They saw the article in the newspaper and were very angry about it.
"Certainly nobody from the Kansas City Chiefs gave that information out," Peterson said. "I'm certain our doctors and trainers never comment on any player's injury situation."
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"I'm not a guy who disappoints people. I want to live up to people's expectations. I'm not saying I'm coming in to be a savior, but I don plan on being part of something special." -- New Chiefs linebacker Kendrell Bell. CHIEFS DRAFT NEEDS:
1. Cornerback. The Chiefs last-ranked pass defense currently as one guy, Eric Warfield, who can be considered an even reasonably competent cover man. Dexter McCleon is old and banged up and William Bartee has yet to make the transition from college safety to NFL corner, and he's been at it for five years. KC needs at least two people here, with one being a free agent who can provide immediate help.
2. Linebacker. The mid-season loss of Shawn Barber didn't help an already hurting unit whose lack of speed became even more dramatic after Barber went down. The addition of Kendrell Bell should help a group that doesn't cover or tackle especially well -- a big drawback in a Gunther Cunningham system that puts heavy emphasis on linebacker play. But they are still looking for depth.
3. Safety. The signing of Sammy Knight gives the Chiefs a play-making safety they haven't had since Jerome Woods was in his prime. Knight will compete with Woods, who, despite his Pro Bowl season of 2003, has missed essentially 1 1/2 seasons in his past three campaigns. He'll be 32 in 2005 and is beginning to wear down. SS Greg Wesley's performance fell off dramatically after getting a new contract last year, but he still has time and the ability to get it back together. Still, some long-term help is needed here.
CHIEFS FREE AGENT STATUS:
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:
LB Monty Beisel; LB Quinton Caver; FB Omar Easy (not tendered as RFA); TE/LS Kendall Gammon; LB Fred Jones.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:
WR Marc Boerigter; LB Scott Fujita; S Shaunard Harts. EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: None.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: LB Kendrell Bell; S Sammy Knight.
PLAYERS LOST: RB Derrick Blaylock (Jets); DE Vonnie Holliday (Dolphins).