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Brandon Marshall open about ‘dislike’ of Packers, confidence in Bears

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The Christmas tree looked weathered and withered, a single red ornament
hanging from what looked like a struggling branch.

This was Brandon Marshall’s prop at his news conference Wednesday, an apt metaphor for the Bears’ season.

‘‘As a kid, it doesn’t matter how your Christmas tree looks,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘You’re still waiting for Christmas Day. You have hopes and dreams that Santa’s going to bring you those things you ask for.’’

During a 7-1 start, the Bears and their fans had visions of an NFC North title and extensions — including one for coach Lovie Smith — dancing in their heads. But losing four of their last five games has stirred ominous talks
of firings, salary-cap dismissals and collapses.

So whether you consider Marshall’s premeditated opening corny or cool, there is something that can’t be disputed: It was a refreshing departure from the too-often buttoned-up way of doing things at Halas Hall.

Marshall proclaimed the Bears’ game Sunday against the Green Bay Packers the biggest of his career, called out Packers safety Charles Woodson and cornerback Tramon Williams for their comments about him, reinforced his belief in his supporting cast and revealed his disdain of the Packers.

‘‘I’m not going to use the word ‘hate,’ but I really dislike the Green Bay Packers and their players,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘But the talk, you have to back it up.’’

The Bears talked big the first time around, too. Before their game Sept. 13 at Lambeau Field, quarterback Jay Cutler wished the Packers’ defensive backs ‘‘good luck’’ in defending Marshall. After a 23-10 victory in which they limited Marshall to two catches for 24 yards, the Packers basked in their performance.

Since arriving via trade during the offseason, Marshall has fulfilled expectations, even if he hasn’t dominated every game. He had only two catches for 21 yards in the Bears’ 32-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but he talked confidently before facing the Seattle Seahawks’ highly regarded duo of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, then hauled in 10 catches for 165 yards, including a 56-yarder that set up an improbable tying field goal at the end of regulation.

Marshall is averaging 10 catches for 139 yards in the Bears’ last three games, so his teammates have no issue with his bold talk
this week.

‘‘He’s Brandon Marshall,’’ longtime long snapper Patrick Mannelly said. ‘‘He backs it up on Sunday.’’

Asked about Marshall’s comments, linebacker Lance Briggs said the receiver speaks for all of his teammates.

Most players are far more diplomatic, perhaps concerned about drawing the ire of Smith or another leader. Marshall, though, hasn’t ducked from controversial topics and still has fit into the Bears’ locker room.

Mannelly said he’s in awe of the way Marshall practices, and Briggs said Marshall ‘‘just oozes leadership.’’

‘‘He has that type of fire that you need,’’ Briggs said. ‘‘He’ll do whatever it takes to win. We’re lucky to have him.’’

Smith, not surprisingly, downplayed the impact of Marshall’s statements.

‘‘Talking just doesn’t get an awful lot done,’’ Smith said. ‘‘But Brandon is just performing each week at a high level, and those are the kind of guys that are going to carry us through this last stretch.’’

In the Bears’ 21-14 loss Sunday to the Minnesota Vikings, several receivers had costly drops, including rookie Alshon Jeffery and veteran Devin Hester. On Wednesday, Marshall wore a Hester T-shirt and projected that Jeffery would become a Pro Bowl receiver.

‘‘We’ve got the guys in that
room that really can carry our offense,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘We also let the team down this past weekend. That falls on us. That falls on me being one of the leaders in that room, and we have to change it now.’’

Jeffery said he hopes to follow Marshall’s lead.

‘‘Just watching him play on the field gets us all wanting to play more like him,’’ Jeffery said.

That is the Bears’ wish this holiday season.

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