CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 15: Brandon Marshall #15 of the Chicago Bears is introduced before a game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on September 15, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Vikings 31-30. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Updated: October 9, 2013 5:36PM
When Brandon Marshall is promoting ‘‘Mental Health Awareness Week,’’ it always seems as if he’s also celebrating ‘‘Brandon Marshall Awareness Day.’’ And there’s nothing wrong with that. Marshall is an earnest supporter of both causes. He’s passionate about raising awareness and money for the mental health community. And he loves being Brandon Marshall.
The Bears’ Pro Bowl wide receiver was in rare form Tuesday, rounding up reporters in the locker room and in a hallway at Halas Hall for a news conference he promised would be entertaining.
‘‘You don’t want to miss the show,’’ he said as he walked toward the media room.
He did not disappoint. He was engaging, entertaining and forthright and even handed out gifts — ties, bow-ties and T-shirts — as part of a quiz on mental health. But reporters had to earn them.
‘‘I’m always giving you guys sound bites,’’ he told the assembled media. ‘‘I’m always giving you guys something that’s juicy . . . nice stories. I’ll continue to do that if you guys help me spread awareness for mental health awareness.’’
As long as Marshall promises to give us the ‘‘juicy’’ stuff in the worst of times as well as the best of times — after losses as well as victories — it’s a deal. One in four people suffers from mental illness. One in 16 suffers from a severe mental illness. You can find out more and donate through the Brandon Marshall Foundation (thebrandonmarshall.com), which is devoted ‘‘to raising awareness for mental illness and helping others gain access to the resources they need to recover.’’
Marshall was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder last year but said he has recovered through treatment.
‘‘I’m past that,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s one of those things where . . . when I went through it I didn’t realize how effective treatment was.’’
And Marshall plans to use the power of his football celebrity to promote the cause. In defiance of the NFL’s strict uniform code, he’ll wear lime green shoes in Thursday night’s game against the Giants (lime green is the color of mental health awareness). He said he not only will pay the fine — typically $5,250 — but will make a matching donation to a mental health foundation.
Now, it’s on to football, where Marshall’s mental challenge is far from over. In a star-crossed eight-year NFL career he has made the Pro Bowl four times but never played in a postseason game. Last season he broke franchise records for catches and yards, yet the Bears lost five of their last seven games and missed the playoffs.
Marshall is well known for wanting every ball thrown his way and expecting to make every catch.
‘‘I don’t think any receiver would be happy playing in the NFL and not catching balls,’’ he said. ‘‘I want to catch footballs. I want to score touchdowns.’’
But it’s a matter of degree. When Marshall is too much of the show or too little, his team suffers.
In the five most prolific games of his career — 160 yards or more — his team is 1-4. When he catches 1-4 balls, he’s 13-19.
The emergence of Alshon Jeffery could end up being the best thing to happen to Marshall — if he can handle not being the lone receiving star. In his eight-year NFL career, Marshall’s best team success comes with more modest numbers. When he has 4-7 receptions and 14-16.4 yards per catch — typically a six-catch, 90-yard day — he’s 11-0. That might be a statistical quirk, but larger numbers indicate that with Marshall in this offense, less could be more. He insists he can live with that.
‘‘It’s not tough at all,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s whatever we’ve got to do to win. That’s what it’s all about.’’
Marshall desperately wants to be a winner. He’s trying hard to be a team player, but at times his own introspection seems to get in the way.
In trying to make it not about him, he sometimes makes it look like it’s all about him. He considers the double-team coverages a compliment. He likes that it’s helping make Alshon Jeffery a star. But when it takes him completely out of the action — that will always be a problem.
‘‘It’s awesome to see it. I smile,’’ Marshall said of the attention he gets from defenses. ‘‘There’s one play where I was at the 3, running down the middle of the field in the red zone, three guys are on me. That was pretty cool. That’s respect.’’
‘‘But at the same time, the NFL, it’s what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. It’s about production. And I’m not saying that it’s about me. It’s about our offense . . . I think we have potential to be better. I just want to be a part of it. . . . Father Time is not on all of our sides. I’m in Year 8. I’m trying to win right now.’’
While Jay Cutler can be persnickity in tough times, Marshall bears watching in good times and bad. Can he handle success if he’s not as big a part of it as he would like? Marshall still shows his frustration on the field, but feels he channels it in a positive direction.
‘‘They’re not paying me 10 million bucks to not make a play,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘Now, it’s what you do in that frustration — what do you do when you’re angry? Do you blow up? Are you a distraction in the locker room? Are you a cancer, or do you communicate in the right way?
‘‘There are some things I still fail at. The first few weeks, coach Trestman calls it a ‘palms-up guy.’ I’m coming off the sidelines like, ‘Man, what’s going on — it’s been three drives.’ So I go to coach and say, ‘May, I’m sorry. I won’t be a palms-up guy.’ And I’ve gotten better. I’ll still work on that. It’s a process. I’m human. I’m still proud of the track that we’re on as a team and my role on it.’’