"It's funny, when I put it on my Twitter, I lost like 500 followers," Bell, who rushed for 633 yards in 24 career games with the Bears, said on Wednesday. "Honestly, it's the NFC North. I'm very familiar with the teams in this division and it's icing on the cake that we get a chance to play Chicago. I'm just happy and I'm grateful and I'm humbled to be here."
Bell was signed to bolster a depleted running back group. With rookie Johnathan Franklin placed on injured reserve a couple weeks ago, the Packers had just workhorse rookie Eddie Lacy, veteran James Starks and fullback John Kuhn in the backfield.
Bell entered the league in 2009 as an undrafted rookie out of UCLA. He's bounced around, with two stints with the Bears and Jets. He failed to make the Jets' roster this summer and had been out of the league until Green Bay added him after working him out on Monday. Bell, who worked out for the Packers at midseason last year, also had workouts with Dallas, Cleveland and Carolina this year, he said.
"It's been tough," Bell said. "My family supported me and tried to keep me strong. There were times when I just didn't think it was going to work out and it might be time to move on and do something else. I've always had faith in my ability to play this game. I just waited for the phone call and I know that whenever I get that opportunity I'm going to take advantage of it."
The Packers have some history with Bell. On Christmas 2011, Bell stepped in for injured Matt Forte and carried 23 times for 121 yards. The Packers, however, won 35-21.
"I recall we got whooped by like 21 points," Bell said. "I remember coming up here to Lambeau and it was my first NFL start. It was a good day individually but this game's not about individual accolades. It's about winning as a team. Even though it was nice to get an opportunity to start and showcase my talent on an individual stage at that point in time, we still got blown out and we didn't make the playoffs. That's what resonates with me more than anything else."
The Packers have just Lacy, Franklin and DuJuan Harris under contract for 2014, so Bell knows there's plenty riding on any late-season appearances.
"A person in my position, I'm always on audition," he said. "I was undrafted, been kind of the guy that wasn't supposed to be on the team. If you go out there and perform like you're trying to keep a job, it can only help you get better and help our team get better. Four-game audition, one-game audition, it doesn't matter. I'm going to give it my best."
With Lacy the workhorse and Kuhn playing on third down, Bell's immediate opportunities might be on special teams. Asked if he'd be open to returning kickoffs — he returned two kickoffs for 45 yards for Chicago in 2011 — Bell said: "I'd be open to mowing the lawn if they wanted me to do that, you know what I'm saying? I've been out of football for 11 weeks now. Whatever they want me to do, I'm going to do. I'm not going to complain, I'm not going to mope about it. I want to be here and I want to help this team in any way I can."
In danger of sitting out the entire season, Bell obviously was thrilled to get a chance with any team. To sign with the Packers, given which team is on the Week 17 schedule, is an added bonus.
"When I signed, I did (look)," he said. "When I finally signed my name on that dotted line, I looked to see who was left. It just so happened to be the Bears. It's a blessing that I get to be here, it's a blessing that I get to go back and play my former team."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.