In the Wake of the News
10:48 PM EDT, October 8, 2013
Anybody with a heart can respect the way Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall consistently uses his star power to promote the cause of mental health.
The latest example came Tuesday at Halas Hall when Marshall, afflicted with borderline personality disorder, announced plans to wear lime-green shoes against the Giants as part of Mental Health Awareness Week. Not that Marshall needs fancy footwear to draw attention to himself lately.
The master of playing games with the media gave out green ties to reporters who correctly answered trivia questions about mental illness. Marshall vowed to match the NFL fine he will receive for wearing different spikes and donate the money to a worthy area mental-health organization that assists women diagnosed with breast cancer. Sharing his own battle against BPD, Marshall revealed he was "past it" with the noble intent of inspiring others by the kind of personal victory that has little to do with Sundays.
"Football is my platform, not my purpose,'' Marshall said eloquently.
May Marshall keep using his experiences as a powerful prop — but not a crutch. Raise money. Lift spirits. Spread goodwill. But when Marshall starts invoking coping mechanisms he developed during treatment for his disorder to explain why he voiced frustration over the Bears offense again, it smacks of selfishness disguised as psychobabble. It sounds like a built-in excuse to act out.
"When you look at things I've been through in the past, one of the things you have to do, you have to validate people,'' Marshall said. "They're not paying me 10 million bucks to not make a play. There's validity behind that (frustration). 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 the right way?''
There is also validity behind the premise that the Bears are paying Marshall — actually $9.3 million — to be a good teammate no matter how many balls he catches. That buys Marshall's compliance. A locker room isn't a therapist's office. Marshall must realize that the more he continues openly validating negative thoughts, the more he complicates those trying to build a positive environment. The more Marshall overstates his case, the more he threatens to undercut Bears coach Marc Trestman's authority — even if Trestman has yet to acknowledge the 6-foot-4, 230-pound distraction that looms.
"He has been a complete professional for the six months I've been around him,'' Trestman insisted.
Was Trestman counting October?
A complete professional publicly would have stopped Sunday after pointing out how Marshall's double-coverage helped Alshon Jeffery set a Bears record and privately asked Trestman for a meeting. A complete professional would have responded like defensive lineman Corey Wootton to his altered state. Wootton quietly accepted a move from end to tackle necessitated by injuries — during a contract year when Wootton's future worth will be determined by sacks.
Even if Wootton complained, it would be hard to hear him over Marshall, who was escorted to the lectern by a Bears PR official twice in three days. Or was it the other way around? The Bears can say the right things but I have yet to meet a successful football guy who sees a connection between team-building and players "not bottling things up,'' as Marshall suggested.
"In the world of sports, it's keep everything behind closed doors, play it down. No,'' Marshall said. "If you pay a receiver $10 million, for them to be OK with not being productive. … Get out of here."
That strikes quite a contrast to the message Marshall sent when training camp opened. Suggesting a burdensome 118-catch season contributed to his hip injury, Marshall welcomed the idea of Jay Cutler spreading the wealth.
"That's probably the reason I got hurt, I had so many receptions,'' Marshall said July 24. "I'm looking forward to passing some along.''
Nothing has changed except Marshall's mood.
Take what the defense gives you as an offense. Accept the rest with an attitude of acceptance that speaks louder than anything Marshall could say into a microphone. Marshall can remain one of the NFL's five most dangerous wide receivers without forcing him the football. The Bears are better overall if they don't. Patience trumps persistence. Even Marshall produced laughter, his best medicine, when a reporter asked whether it made sense to avoid throwing into double-coverage.
"That's obvious but there's so much more that comes into it,'' Marshall said, smiling.
Perhaps, but Trestman's Midwest Coast offense works best when the primary receiver is the open one. If Marshall keeps commanding two defenders it will create more opportunities for the Bears to win. If Marshall keeps commanding a crowd to hear him therapeutically vent, everybody loses.
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