May 23 (UPI) -- New York Jets coach Adam Gase denied having a role in the firing of general manager Mike Maccagnan, while also voicing his excitement to work with Le'Veon Bell during a news conference Thursday.
The Jets hired Gase in January after firing coach Todd Bowles. The AFC East franchise fired Maccagnan on May 15, giving acting general manager responsibilities to Gase.
Gase told reporters that he did not tell Jets CEO Christopher Johnson to fire Maccagnan. Instead, Johnson called Gase to inform the coach that he decided to fire Maccagnan. The Jets are in the "beginning stages" of their process in finding a new general manager, according to Gase.
Gase called reports that he "stabbed" Maccagnan in the back "false." He said he was on the "same page" as Maccagnan the majority of the time. Gase also said he never voiced that he could not work with Maccagnan.
Reports also emerged this month stating that Gase felt the Jets overpaid for star running back Le'Veon Bell in free agency. The franchise signed the former Pittsburgh Steelers running back to a four-year, $52.5 million contract in March. Bell's deal includes $35 million guaranteed.
Gase said Thursday that he is "excited for the opportunity" to coach Bell. The three-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro had 1,946 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns on a career-high and league-high 406 touches in 15 starts during his 2017 campaign for Pittsburgh.
Bell sat out during the 2018 season after refusing to play under the franchise tag.
"We signed him," Gase said. "I'm excited we have him. I've been in constant communication with him. Discussions happen."
Gase called Bell a great player and a good person. He said he enjoyed the interactions he has had with Bell and the two have remained in contract through text messaging. Bell is not attending Jets OTAs, but keeps Gase updated on his private workouts.
"The contract was what it was," Gase said. "Everybody can criticize contracts all you want. But he's here. I'm excited that he's here. I think our players are excited he's here. I know our coaches are. You get a chance to coach a great player, a guy that has done things nobody has ever done in the league, we are excited for that opportunity."
Gase said the Jets did not overpay for Bell. He also said it was "ridiculous" to believe the Jets would trade Bell before the 2019 season.
The Jets finish their first round of OTA off-season workouts on Thursday before returning to the program May 28. The Jets have mandatory minicamp from June 4 to 6.