Brandon Marshall, Bears playing dodge ball
BY RICK MORRISSEY Sports Columnist August 28, 2013 8:24PM
- Why we should worry about Brandon Marshall
- Bears give Brandon Marshall 4 days off for ‘personal reasons’
- Final preseason game could be crucial for Bears on the bubble
- Friends Palmer, Edwards compete for Bears’ 3rd-string QB spot
- Bears DT Henry Melton slowly returning after concussion
- Brandon Marshall misses practice because of medical appointment
- Picking the Bears’ 53-player roster
Updated: September 30, 2013 2:03PM
Here’s the problem for No. 1 wide receivers in the NFL: Everything — and allow them to tell you why.
Here’s the problem for NFL head coaches: Nothing that a media purge wouldn’t solve — and don’t quote them on that.
So here we are at the intersection of receiver Brandon Marshall and coach Marc Trestman. And if you have any idea of what’s really going on with Marshall, please let me know.
Receivers have been known to be divas in the way that crystal vases have been known to be delicate. On Tuesday, Marshall steered a harmless question about Jay Cutler and the Bears’ offense to his own hip problem, his conditioning issues and his uncertainty about where he fits in with Trestman’s new attack.
Other than that, everything is super.
On Wednesday, Marshall was nowhere to be seen during the Bears’ practice. That seemed suspicious, given his verbal hand-wringing the day before. But Trestman tried to put any concerns to rest by saying he had excused Marshall from practice, as well as from the Bears’ preseason game Thursday against the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field. Not only that, but the excused absence had been planned well in advance, he said.
Funny how these ‘‘planned excused absences’’ never are made public until the player’s absence is noticed.
To be fair, Trestman has done nothing in his short time here to make anyone think he’s borrowing from former coach Lovie Smith’s handbook on being secretive and misleading. So far, he has been a standup guy.
And Marshall hasn’t been a problem off the field for the Bears, unlike at some of his other NFL stops. He has been a vocal advocate for those, like him, who have borderline personality disorder.
But it’s difficult not to be skeptical after the latest turn of events. NFL teams aren’t in the habit of giving four-day breaks to players.
Is Marshall’s hip bothering him beyond what he has let on? As he mentioned Tuesday, the offseason arthroscopic procedure was the third he has had on his hips. Or was this merely a scheduled hip exam, as some were reporting? The scary part for the Bears is the specter of their best receiver being nowhere near his best this season.
Is his head right? Has the frustration brought him to the point of distraction? Is there something else going on?
‘‘I’d rather just leave it to personal reasons out of respect to Brandon, but it’s all good,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘As I’ve said when I let guys go for personal reasons, it’s all good, and this is all good. It’s not reflected in anything other than I gave him time off.’’
After news broke of Marshall’s absence from practice, he answered some fans’ questions on Twitter, saying his hip was structurally fine and he’d be ready for the Bears’ regular-season opener Sept. 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The drumbeat since Trestman became coach is that the team needs to be more diverse offensively. Very few people thought Marshall’s franchise-record 118 receptions last season were a good thing for the Bears’ offense, which finished 28th out of 32 teams. In the last six seasons, he never has had fewer than 81 catches and 1,014 yards.
The question about how he’ll react if he doesn’t catch the bear’s share of passes this season is a legitimate one. It’s worth noting Marshall’s hip, head or conditioning weren’t public issues after he caught four passes from Cutler in the second preseason game. He dropped two passes Friday against the Oakland Raiders, and he was clearly frustrated while talking with reporters four days later.
He seemed particularly concerned that unspecified people were pushing him to get up to speed physically. Usually, the people doing that kind of pushing are coaches.
‘‘Some people might think I need to be farther on than where I am,’’ Marshall said. ‘‘So it’s a little frustrating not being where I want to be right now and maybe pushed a little bit. So we’ll see.’’
If the Bears remain true to NFL form, when Marshall returns to team meetings Sunday, they’ll declare it was all much ado about nothing. They’ll say their top receiver is 100 percent, and Marshall will ask us what part of ‘‘no big deal’’ we don’t understand.
But I wonder if Cutler wasn’t closest to the real diagnosis when he said Marshall would ‘‘take it hard for a couple of days, and then he’ll snap out of it.’’
If you’re a Bears fan, you’d better hope that’s all it is.