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Bears’ Brandon Marshall seems to have left troubles behind

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears

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Updated: November 27, 2012 11:14AM



Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall goes down — for now — as a plus-plus-plus. Maybe four pluses. The big pass-catcher is one of those rarest of sporting deals: all good.

And who knew it would happen?

Remember when he came to town last spring after the Bears traded two third-round draft picks to snatch him from the Dolphins?

It was as though South Florida had sent us a tarantula in a box.

Marshall was joining his third team in four years.

The dude could play. Everybody knew that. Six NFL seasons. Three Pro Bowls. Five consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Statistically, he was on track for the Hall of Fame.

If the Hall of Shame didn’t get him first.

Indeed, Marshall was wandering through the grid world with so many previous black marks and arrests — assault, retail theft, being part of an argument that led to a Broncos teammate getting shot to death, domestic assault, battery, DUI, disorderly conduct, even being stabbed in the stomach by his wife — that he seemed more a ticking hand grenade than a human.

Why, just two days before the Bears acquired him, Marshall was charged with punching a 24-year-old woman in the eye outside a New York nightclub.

But let us say right here that many — indeed, most — of those charges against Marshall were later dismissed. Including the allegedly punched woman. Why? We can debate that all we want.

But this is the known, the certain: Marshall, 28, has held it together since coming to Chicago and has become a star, without which the Bears’ offense could barely function.

He is like a recovering addict in that every day is a struggle for him, a day that he must think about and internalize goals that so far transcend football as to make the game seem almost meaningless. And he is doing it.

He has been very outspoken about his borderline personality disorder, a potentially devastating condition in which the person suffers from unstable feelings about himself and the world. A person with this disorder is never dead sure of who he is, never absolutely certain who is a friend or enemy, what is the right way to respond to an argument, an insult, a perceived indiscretion.

But therapy, talk and self-awareness can help.

‘‘I encounter adversity every day,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘A few years ago, I signed a $50 million contract, bought an amazing house in Florida, dream cars, beautiful wife. And with that being said, there were still struggles in my life. Life isn’t all about football, 5-1, playing for the Chicago Bears.’’

And the odd thing is that sometimes the hero-like men who dominate our thoughts on fall Sundays are the last ones to grow up, to mature while participating in a conflicted, violent game — for money.

Marshall has a million-watt smile and a demeanor that seems — at least in the superficial way we perceive our athletes — to be nice, funny and thoughtful. When he was at the Halas Hall rostrum not long ago, he asked the gawking media to all gather together before him so he could take an iPhone camera shot. It was hilarious. The predators became the prey. We all had a good laugh.

And how much do the Bears need the 6-5, 225-pound Marshall to be effective on the field?

Consider that the Bears have lost only one game, to the Packers, and that was when Marshall dealt with ferocious two-man coverage and could barely get open.  He caught only two passes for 24 yards, and the Bears were wiped out 23-10.

In the five other games, Marshall has averaged almost eight catches and 90 yards. His four touchdown receptions have come in games in which he averaged 120 yards.

Marshall is the receiver the Bears have never had. I’m thinking Dick Gordon or Marcus Robinson. But not them, either. Maybe Johnny Morris. Who knows?

But success, for now, is twofold.  On the field. And in life. And I, personally, at least, salute him for that.

As the Mayo Clinic medical book says, ‘‘If you have borderline personality disorder, don’t get discouraged. Many people with this disorder get better with treatment and can live satisfying lives.’’

You go, Brandon.



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