Demetress Bell didn't start playing football until he was 18. Because of various injuries he's only played in 31 games in four NFL seasons.
There aren't many athletes that haven't tapped into their full potential at the age of 27, but the Eagles' new left tackle said that he's one of them.
The Eagles introduced Bell on Thursday after he signed a five-year contract the day before. While the former Bill has a long way to go if he wants to be mentioned in the same breath as the man he's replacing – five-time Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters – the Eagles were likely intrigued by Bell's relative inexperience.
Before Bell met with reporters he and his mother, Gloria, met with Eagles coach Andy Reid. As they were leaving the coach's office, Gloria Bell told Reid that she was still learning the game of football, Demetress recalled.
"I kind of chuckled and told her, 'We're both still learning,'" Bell said. "I really don't see myself kind of peaking for another couple years. I'm kind of on the verge of playing good football, but I'm not where I want to be yet."
It'll be up to Howard Mudd, in some ways, to get Bell to tap into that reserve. The Eagles offensive line coach has already been credited with resurrecting guard Evan Mathis' career. Bell said that he thought he could adapt to Mudd's different approach to blocking.
"In Buffalo, the technique was vertical set," Bell said. "You're setting straight back. While coach Mudd's technique is sitting wider and keeping the pocket like a circle shape."
Bell said he met with Mudd on Sunday during his weekend visit with the Eagles.
"I don't even think we talked about football," Bell said. "We just talked."
It was during that conversation that Mudd found out that Bell's first name had been misspelled for years. Bell said on Thursday that he started spelling it "Demetrius" when he was younger, but that he never changed it even though it was "Demetress" on his birth certificate.
Mudd apparently pushed Bell and the Eagles to correct it.
The grizzly old coach will also be responsible to pushing his new student to greater heights. The 6-foot-5, 311-pound Bell said his athleticism should help him adapt. He's had experience running up field to block.
"In Buffalo we kind of had sprint draws, outside plays," Bell said. "I think plays like that work to my ability because I can move."
Coincidentally, Bell took over for Peters in Buffalo after the Eagles traded for Peters in 2009. Bell said he and Peters remained close and that they have spoken throughout the process of his signing here.
"He was one of the reasons why I came here," Bell said.
Peters, of course, ruptured his Achilles tendon last week. He is likely out for the season. The Eagles, in signing Bell, covered themselves for this season and potentially for the future if Peters can't return from the injury.
Only the first year of the Bell's deal is guaranteed, though. Bell said that there would be no awkwardness with Peters if he were to play well in 2012 and Peters were to return to full strength next year.
"I haven't given any thought as to down the road and where I might be," Bell said. "I have a five year deal and I'll take it one day at a time."
Bell has been beset by injuries during his NFL career. His 2009 season was cut short by a torn ACL in his right knee. He said an AC shoulder sprain kept him out of several games last season. He tore the meniscus in his left knee near the end of the season and had surgery in late December.
"I was cleared Jan . 15," Bell said. "And I'm ready to roll."