Bears’ Brandon Marshall demands attention
BY RICK MORRISSEY Sports Columnist October 7, 2013 9:44PM
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Updated: November 9, 2013 6:21AM
It’s not a good thing when more is made of the guy who had 30 receiving yards than the guy who had a franchise-record 218.
And it’s not a good thing when a group of people gathers in the expectation that the frustrated, statistically lesser wide receiver will go off like a nuclear-weapon test in the desert. The surprise was that we media members didn’t show up for it in protective sunglasses Sunday.
The bigger surprise was that the Bears’ Brandon Marshall didn’t deliver the mushroom cloud.
It was a strange scene inside the team’s interview room after the game at Soldier Field, with Marshall saying he was frustrated by his lack of receptions (but understanding why they had dried up), while expressing pride in ridding himself of the bad body language he had displayed in the loss in Detroit the week before. I’m convinced that, somewhere in Halas Hall, the Bears offer MSL classes — Moping as a Second Language.
Now, you would be well within your rights to say that the reason Marshall talked so much about himself after the Bears’ loss to the Saints was because reporters kept asking him where his frustration level was over his production. But those questions didn’t come out of nowhere.
There’s no “I’’ in team, but there is a “ball’’ in Brandon Marshall. And he has always wanted it.
“It’s tough,’’ he said. “It’s really tough. I’m not going to lie to you. Last week, after the [Detroit] game, my No. 1 goal going into the workweek was to work on my body language when I’m not in the game. It’s been that way the first few weeks. I kind of let myself down and the guys around me with my body language.
“So I got better at that [against New Orleans]. They took me out of the game, and that’s one positive for myself — just try to keep my head up and keep myself ready for when I’m available for the team whenever they call my number.’’
The Bears are tiptoeing around their star receiver, who’s averaging 75.6 yards a game after averaging 94.3 last season. Alshon Jeffery’s 218-yard effort was quite a feat, but I had the distinct impression that quarterback Jay Cutler was trying to downplay it Monday to soothe Marshall. Cutler said Jeffery’s yards were kind of misleading because they came in big chunks just before halftime and the end of the game.
Perhaps, but you can bet they’re not misleading to Marshall.
“He is the prototypical great receiver who wants the football and should want it,’’ coach Marc Trestman said. “But I think he’s handled himself in a very professional manner. He’s been a little bit frustrated, but not outwardly. But you just sense that, knowing that he wants the ball, and we’re going to try to get him that.’’
Everybody seems to be taking Marshall’s emotional temperature these days. Is he happy with his production? How will he be Thursday against the Giants? What about afterward? What if he has, say, four straight games in which he doesn’t get as many receptions as he’d like?
Lots of energy is being expended on Marshall, and not just by opponents.
Trestman said Marshall “has done as much for this team over the last seven months as any single player has.’’ Marshall invited Jeffery to work out with him in south Florida in the offseason. He helped the Bears recruit free-agent tight end Martellus Bennett and linebacker D.J. Williams.
But five games into the season, it’s as if Marshall is surprised at the shifting landscape. Abstractly, he’s all for the idea of wealth sharing. Practically, he seems to be asking, “How did these guys get on my football field?’’
Opponents are double-teaming him. It’s a fact of life. It’s also a sign of respect. It’s one of the reasons Jeffery has done so well. Marshall seems genuinely happy for him. But No. 1 receivers are like temperamental chefs, and they think the key ingredients to a victory are 10 catches for 150 yards. And for some of these guys, the victory part isn’t all that important.
Complicating matters is that Marshall thinks he’s open even when two defensive backs are draped on him. So it’s hard to win here for the Bears.
The question football coaches never want to confront is whether a player is disrupting the locker room to the detriment of the team. Marshall says he wants to win, and the Bears say they believe him. It’ll have to do.