Bell praises the Eagles tackle he is replacing

Posted: April 06, 2012

Demetress Bell's admiration sounded so sincere that he probably didn't realize the double entendre when he said that Jason Peters "was one of the reasons I came here."

Bell was referring to his friendship with Peters and the advice he received from the all-pro left tackle when he ultimately chose to sign with the Eagles on Wednesday. But the larger part Peters played in Bell's landing in Philadelphia was simply rupturing his Achilles tendon last week.

If Peters had remained healthy, Bell would have gone to one of the NFL outposts that were courting the free agent. Of course, if Peters wasn't the player Bell was replacing with the Eagles, he may have pursued another team.

They first met in Buffalo in 2008 after Bell was drafted in the seventh round. Soon they became mentor and student. A year later, Peters was traded to the Eagles, and Bell was promoted to his spot. They are teammates again, and Bell is following in Peters' footsteps, although the circumstances aren't ideal.

"That's whose coattails I was on for two years in Buffalo," Bell said Thursday during his introductory news conference at the NovaCare Complex. "That's all I knew and who my coach made me train after. Of course, I look up to him, and at the end of the day I want to be better than him."

That will be difficult. Peters has gone to five consecutive Pro Bowls. Last season, many considered him the best left tackle in the game. But the Achilles injury will be difficult to overcome.

The Eagles guaranteed Bell only one year in salary, but they have the option for more. Bell was asked whether there would be any awkwardness if he were to perform well in 2012 and Peters were to return either later this season or next offseason.

"No, it won't be awkward at all," Bell said. "This is a business, and I understand that. I know that he understands that. Whatever happens on the back side, I'm sure we'll be friends at the end of the day."

First things first. Bell has some learning to do. Even though he will turn 28 in May and is entering his fifth season in the NFL, Bell said he still hasn't tapped into his full potential. He didn't start playing football until he was a sophomore in college. And his four seasons in the pros have been interrupted by injuries.

"I don't see myself peaking for a couple of more years," Bell said.

Howard Mudd will be tasked with helping Bell reach that peak. The offensive line coach has been credited with helping to revive guard Evan Mathis and many others over his long career. Bell fits that mold not only because of his relative inexperience but because his athleticism would appear to allow him to thrive in Mudd's system.

Bell and Mudd first met Sunday over dinner.

"I don't think we even talked about football," Bell noted.

During their conversation, Mudd found out that Bell's first name was "Demetress" and not "Demetrius," as everyone - including Bell - had been spelling and pronouncing it for years. Mudd suggested he use the correct version.

"It was spelled 'tress' on my birth certificate, and I had never paid attention and had been spelling it 'trius,' " Bell said. "It's not a big deal."

Bell first attended Northwestern State on a basketball scholarship. His biological father is NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone. Mudd has disdain for the vertical set that many tackles employ. He prefers his blockers to almost act like a defender guarding a point guard in hoops.

Keeping Bell on the field could be the biggest challenge. He missed half of 2009 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and he didn't play for much of last season because of a shoulder injury. He sat out the final game after tearing the meniscus in his left knee.

Bell had surgery in December, but he said that he was cleared to work out Jan. 15 and that he was "ready to roll." Peters, he said, already has offered his assistance.

"You have Coach Mudd and you have a five-time Pro Bowler," Bell said. "What other kind of coaching would you need?"

Poe visits Eagles. The Eagles hosted Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe on Thursday. Rated by many analysts among the top five at his position in the draft, Poe was spotted walking the NovaCare Complex corridors with Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn.

"Y'all know Fletcher Cox," Washburn joked.

Cox, from Mississippi State, is also a top-rated defensive tackle. The Eagles reportedly had another in for a visit recently when they hosted Louisiana State's Michael Brockers.

The 6-foot-3, 346-pound Poe wowed scouts at the combine in Indianapolis when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.87 seconds. He also impressed them with his strength, squatting 700 pounds and bench-pressing 225 pounds a combine-best 44 times.

Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, or follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.


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