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Brandon Marshall, Bears ‘embracing the change’

JACKSONVILLE FL - OCTOBER 07:  BrandMarshall #15 Chicago Bears celebrates after scoring touchdown during game against Jacksonville Jaguars EverBank

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 07: Brandon Marshall #15 of the Chicago Bears celebrates after scoring a touchdown during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on October 7, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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Updated: April 10, 2013 9:33PM



Eight days ago, Bears receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Martellus Bennett convened at Marshall’s home hours after getting their new offensive playbook on team-issued iPads. That evening, the two pulled different-colored pieces from board games, simulated some formations and plays, then quizzed one another.

‘‘Oh, my gosh, I’m in love with it,’’ Marshall told the Sun-Times. ‘‘Martellus and I sat down and went through the formational stuff and started challenging each other. It was exciting to go through, and it’s pretty cool to have a partner.’’

Marshall, of course, declined to shed too much light on the offensive scheme, but he highlighted what the newly signed Bennett will help to improve.

‘‘It’s so stimulating and it gets everyone involved, and that’s exciting to me,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘Because the better Alshon [Jeffery] is, the better I’ll be. The better Earl [Bennett] is, the better Martellus will be. The better Martellus is, the better Matt Forte will be. And so on and so forth. It’s just awesome.’’

In the first season after the Bears acquired him from the Miami Dolphins for two third-round draft picks, Marshall set team records for catches (118) and receiving yards (1,508). Still, the Bears’ offense ranked 28th in the NFL in total yards.

Due in part to their frequent struggles on offense, the Bears fired coach Lovie Smith and replaced him with Marc Trestman, who has coordinated several elite units and quarterbacks in his career.

‘‘It’s an exciting time for us,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘We’re embracing the change. It definitely was hard losing coach Smith, but it’s the National Football League, and change isn’t unique. It’s just something you have to be able to adjust to in this business.’’

Another change is the departure of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.

‘‘That’s hard when you lose a guy like that,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘It’s not only hard for the player but the whole organization. I’ve only been around for a year, so I could imagine what it’s like for a guy who has been playing with him for 10 years or working with him for his whole career.’’

So who becomes the face of the Bears with Urlacher gone?

‘‘It’s the brand; it’s the Bears,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘That’s the thing I loved about the locker room last year: You look at [Julius] Peppers, [Charles] Tillman, [Jay] Cutler, Urlacher, and no one’s ego is bigger than the team.’’

As for replacing Urlacher, Marshall knows his replacement, D.J. Williams. They played together for four seasons with the Denver Broncos.

‘‘He’s not only a great linebacker, he’s one of the most athletic players in the NFL,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘That’s one of the steals of free agency.’’

Asked about Williams’ leadership qualities, Marshall said: ‘‘The guys are going to love him, and he definitely has leadership skills. But . . . I don’t think I’ve ever been around a leader like Brian. That’s no knock on D.J., but Brian was just one-of-a-kind.’’

Marshall had arthroscopic surgery on his hip Jan. 15. The typical timetable for recovery is six to seven weeks, but Marshall wanted to take advantage of the offseason schedule.

‘‘You can double that because you can afford to be cautious,’’ said Marshall, who started running in a pool two weeks ago and on a field last week. ‘‘It’s about working smarter. . . . We don’t play games until September. Feeling really good. As long as I’m in top shape then, that’s all that matters.’’

Marshall underwent a hip procedure during the 2010 offseason, but he said he ‘‘felt something’’ the last two years.

‘‘I’m excited to start this season 100 percent healthy and see how much better I can be,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘I feel so great, man.’’



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