Ravens rookie reacts to Le’Veon Bell’s release with emotion.

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Ravens rookie reacts anguishously to Le’Veon Bell’s release.

Brandon Stephens, a safety for the Baltimore Ravens, grew up idolizing Le’Veon Bell, the Ravens’ running back who was waived yesterday.

Soon after Bell’s release was announced, Stephens expressed his gratitude for his former teammate on Twitter.

I grew up wanting to run the rock like LBell! To be able to call him my teammate was incredible!

November 16, 2021 — Brandon Stephens (@BSteve_1)

While Stephens has only played defense in the NFL, he began his career as a running back, earning first-team all-district honors during his junior year in 2014, the same year Bell surpassed 2,000 yards from scrimmage, earning him his first All-Pro selection.

Stephens was named all-district again as a senior before committing to UCLA, according to 247 Sports.

Stephens transferred schools and positions due to a lack of playing time and a desire to play defense, eventually landing at SMU as a cornerback, where he practiced with current Ravens receiver James Proche.

In September, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic wrote about the position swap:

Stephens’ thoughts were already on the other side of the ball before he was dropped from UCLA’s depth chart.

He stayed after practice every chance he got to work out with the Bruins’ defensive backs.

Cornerback, he believed, was a better fit for his mentality and skill set.

He also believed that the position would provide him with a better path to the NFL.

Stephens excelled at cornerback in college, but the Ravens made it clear after drafting him in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft that they intended to convert him to free safety.

He had to learn on the job, playing at least 20 defensive snaps and 12 special teams snaps in each of the Ravens’ first three games before earning his first start in Week 4 as a replacement for an injured DeShon Elliott.

After Elliott’s season-ending injury against the Minnesota Vikings, he returned to the role in Week 5 and eventually took over the starting job entirely.

Stephens is still growing as a safety, particularly in terms of communication and play-diagnosis, but he’s been a consistent tackler for a Baltimore defense that has struggled to bring down ball carriers this season.

He’s only responsible for four of the 188 snaps he’s played this season.

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