Maybe it’s because the sport is rooted in toughness, but it’s difficult to judge emotion in a football player.
When offensive tackle Ted Albrecht broke down and wept on draft day in 1977 while talking about Joe Roth, his quarterback at Cal who had died of cancer earlier that year, the Bears knew they had a guy with a lot of heart. Albrecht became a starter as a rookie and blocked for five of Walter Payton’s greatest seasons before retiring with a back injury.
When running back Cedric Benson shed tears of joy on draft day in New York City after being selected fourth overall in 2005, the Bears thought they had a guy with a lot of heart. But the flighty Benson never showed it in three disappointing seasons and didn’t become an impact player in the NFL until the Bears cut him and Benson signed with the Bengals.
So we’ll see about Brandon Marshall. The Bears’ newly acquired wide receiver surely won the hearts of Bears fans and probably softened many of his harshest critics when he spoke with sincerity and candor – stopping to compose himself on a few occasions – about the personal conduct issues that have stained his reputation and his battle with borderline personality disorder at his introductory press conference Friday at Halas Hall.
Bears general manager Phil Emery, quarterback Jay Cutler and newly signed backup Jason Campbell also spoke at the press conference, but Marshall’s emotion carried the day. ‘‘Wow. This is a very special moment for me,” Marshall said with a heavy sigh. ‘‘I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.”
If Chicago could will an athlete to succeed, Marshall will be a huge hit next season. But it can’t. So it’s all up to Brandon Marshall to live up to the promise of the day that ‘‘this journey is going to be amazing” and realize his goal of ‘‘being an asset to this team, this organization and most importantly to the community.”
It’s all there for the taking in a town that has been home to one Pro Bowl wide receiver in the last 40 years (Marty Booker in 2002). The Cutler-Marshall connection is the best quarterback-receiver at least since Ed Brown-to-Harlon Hill in the mid-1950s and maybe ever.
But as Marshall said, football is the easy part. ‘‘I can catch a ball in my sleep. I can make guys miss easy,” he said. ‘‘But the most important thing for me, my biggest goal, is to be [nominated] for the Walter Payton [Man of the Year] award. My mission starts in the community here.”
The 6-4, 230-pound Marshall, who was suspended for one game in 2008 for violating the NFL’s personal conduct penalty, said he has ‘‘no fear at all” of being suspended again after being accused of punching a woman in the face in a New York City nightclub Sunday. ‘‘The truth will come out and we’re excited about that,” he said. But the alleged victim, Christin Myles, told the New York Daily News she wants Marshall ‘‘held criminally responsible for what he did to me.”
Marshall said the treatment for BPD ‘‘was an amazing experience and made a difference in his personal life. The tricky part is taking the edge off his self-destructive personality without losing the edge that makes him a Pro Bowl receiver.
‘‘On the field it’s made me a millionaire . . . one of the best receivers in the league,” he said ‘‘But off the field, it made me the guy you guys are talking about on TV right now. That was the old me. I call it my gift and my curse. Because without that passion, without that intense approach to the game – which comes from a lot of my pain, a lot of my anger, I wouldn’t be here today.”