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Byron Bell cuts no corners

Undrafted seven years ago, veteran offensive lineman has fashioned solid career


GREEN BAY - When Byron Bell needed to get to Green Bay to sign his new contract earlier this week, he had to take care of something first.

He had to mow his mom's lawn.

The two-hour project, with a push mower no less, on his mother's property in their hometown of Greenville, Texas, took priority because Bell has never been allowed to skip out or cut corners when it comes to work.

It partly explains how an undrafted player back in 2011 has held multiple starting jobs and is still going strong, with the Packers now becoming his fourth NFL team in 2018.

"It's where I'm from," Bell said after Thursday's OTA practice, just his second workout in Green Bay. "My momma raised me, a military woman, deputy sheriff for a couple years, now she works for the DA's office.

"If there's one dish dirty, you rewash them all. That's just how it is."

So forgive Bell if he's not sweating the details of just where he's going to line up on the Packers' offensive line right away.

A left tackle in college at New Mexico, Bell became an undrafted rookie starter at right tackle for Carolina. Then he was switched to guard after being traded to Tennessee, then back to right tackle, and eventually over to left tackle, where he filled in last year for an injured Tyron Smith in Dallas.

At first glance, it would appear the 6-foot-5, 320-pounder will get thrown directly into the Packers' competition at right tackle, which could be for a Week 1 starting job if veteran leader Bryan Bulaga is not fully recovered from last year's knee surgery.

But don't rule out right guard, either, as the Packers showed interest in Bell last year, bringing him in for a free-agent visit before Jahri Evans signed closer to the draft.

"I'm comfortable wherever," said Bell, who has 74 career starts. "I've played them all."

Bell was interested in the Packers a year ago, too, but the chance to play for his home-state Cowboys was too good for a Texas native to pass up.

He's glad to be here now, though, and learning a different offense again won't be an issue. He's behind the curve at the moment, coming in this late in the offseason program, in part due to an offseason knee procedure.

But he has no concerns about being up to speed by training camp. He also has a former teammate for a brief time in Tennessee, Justin McCray, to lean on if necessary.

"It's just different terminology," he said. "It's all the same plays. I just have to put what I've learned in the past into the Packer terms. It's all the same. They just call it differently here.

"It's learning a new language. I've done it three times now, and I can do it again. It's just repetition and studying."

Bell has overcome more difficult obstacles before. That mom who raised him and his brothers did it mostly herself after Bell's father died when he was five. Then, as a college freshman, he lost a brother in a house fire but pressed on.

Carving out a nice career as an undrafted player requires a type of no-nonsense diligence that's second nature to Bell.

"One thing I know for a fact I do is I hone out a whole bunch of negativity," he said. "I know coming into the league, a lot of people said, he can't do it … he isn't going to be able to block such and such.

"I just blocked it out and focused on the main goal, playing football. I've been doing it my whole life."

As well as staying on top of the chores at home.

"She doesn't have to tell you to do things," Bell said of his mom, Sandra, known as Miss Bell to everyone else. "If the grass needs to be cut, go cut it.

"That's life."

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