When the Buffalo Bills traded their Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters to the Eagles during the 2009 offseason, they moved forward at the position with Demetrius Bell. Now, Bell, with his first name corrected to Demetress, is once again preparing to fill Peters' rather large shoes.
Then, Bell was an inexperienced and unproven second-year player who had never been active for an NFL game. Now, after 30 starts in three years, the 27-year-old Bell comes to the Eagles after making the rounds as a hot commodity in free agency. But the oddest part of this final leg in Bell's journey from in-house Jason Peters replacement to imported Jason Peters replacement is the person who lobbied hardest for Bell to come to Philadelphia -- Peters himself.
"To tell the truth, it was like Jason was on the staff getting paid," Bell told PhiladelphiaEagles.com. "He really welcomed me with open arms. He was like, 'Man, trust me, this is the best decision for you. Let's go get a ring.'"
Bell and Peters remained friends after Bell's rookie season (Peters' last in Buffalo) was spent watching and learning while Peters thrived on the field.
"Jason was like a big brother," Bell said during his introductory press conference. "As soon as I got (to Buffalo), he took me in. (Former Bills offensive line) Coach (Sean) Kugler left for the Steelers, and he told me that's who you keep up with and that's whose coattails you hang onto, so I did. (Peters) didn't take me in when I first got there, but he saw me work and work. Then, he took me in and showed me the do's and don't's. Me and him have a great relationship right now because of that."
In Philadelphia, Peters continued his development. The perennial Pro Bowler was named an All-Pro for the first time in 2011 after excelling under the tutelage of renowned offensive line coach Howard Mudd. So after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon while working out in his native Texas, Peters, very much to his credit, wanted his team to get the best possible replacement they could.
Peters and Bell had already been in contact prior to Peters' injury, but once it looked like Bell and the Eagles could be a potential match, Peters put on the full-court press.
"After the visit (with the Eagles), I talked to him and I said, 'Jason, what do you think about coach Mudd?'" said Bell. "He said, 'He's the real deal ... If you want to be a Pro Bowler, come here and you have coach Mudd and me behind you and you don't have a choice.' So that's a great business decision for me."
Before the friendship between Bell and Peters was known, some wondered about the potential awkwardness of an eventually healthy Peters returning to a position manned by Bell in his absence. Bell shot that notion down with ease.
"No, it won't be awkward at all," he said. "This is a business and I understant 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."
The similarities between Bell and Peters are striking. Peters entered the league as an undrafted free agent while Bell was selected in the seventh round. Both players became the Bills left tackle despite their glaring lack of experience at the position - Peters was a tight end at Arkansas while Bell was a basketball player at Northwestern State before switching to football and playing only two years at left tackle. But even though Bell was told at the outset of his professional career to follow Peters' footsteps as closely as possible, the Eagles' newest offensive lineman wants to be clear that he intends to make a name for himself.
"That's whose coattails I was on for two years in Buffalo," said Bell. "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."
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