By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Dropped passes in an exhibition game don’t count, and don’t really matter. And minor offseason medical procedures are a matter of routine for Brandon Marshall over his six-year NFL career.
Unfortunately, the same can be said about his penchant for self-absorption.
“I’m still trying to figure out my role and my place in this offense,” he told reporters yesterday, despite not being asked about that.
He went on to mention his previously-unmentioned struggles to return to peak physical condition after hip arthroscopy, insinuating that unseen forces are “rushing” him back to action.
Alshon Jeffery catches seven passes for 77 yards in the first half against the Raiders, and Marshall is in a funk over his role. Already.
His place in the offense is right there in the playbook. Split end or flanker, in the slot or in motion, whatever is assigned and called. Not complicated or dramatic, just run the route and make the catch or block somebody.
But that’s never been the way Marshall has seen things, a big reason why the spectacularly-talented athletic specimen and four-time Pro-Bowler is on his third team at age 29. Jay Cutler has been through this with him before in Denver, and he was quick to write it off to just a bad day.
“He’s going to take it hard for a couple of days and then he’ll snap out of it,” Cutler said. “This week we don’t need him, so he can stay on the ledge for a couple more days and then come back next week.”
Not exactly the most sensitive stuff from Cutler, considering Marshall’s well-publicized case of Borderline Personality Disorder, a condition finally diagnosed after a long string of arrests for such things as assaulting police, DUI, domestic violence, disorderly conduct and battery.
Those with BPD are prone to feeling abandoned, victimized or disconnected, and can act impulsively and emotionally, often responding to what they project on others. It is a broad-patterned illness that may explain a wide spectrum of behaviors.
But regardless of any possible clinical reason for his diva turn, it does raise concerns. How manageable will Marshall be if a newly-egalitarian offense does anything less than force-feed him whatever opportunities he needs to feel appreciated? Every receiver wants the ball, but some are more professional than others when they don’t get it.
It was easy for him last year as the lone target visible to Cutler. The gear-grinding Mike Tice offense turned into two-man playground ball, and it gave Marshall both the big numbers and the alpha role that are so significant to him. The Bears didn’t score much, but he was happy enough.
Now the emphasis is on spreading the wealth, and putting up more points. If the new system works at anything close to top efficiency, Marshall will undoubtedly need periodic reassurances of his place in the Bears’ universe.
What’s more, this comes at the same time Marc Trestman is attempting to install a culture of sacrifice for the greater good, which is fundamental to his philosophy of winning football. Whether one believes in such things or not, Trestman does. He preaches the commitment to working for the success of others and not oneself, staying aware of the team concept, and “making the guy next to you better.”
Those motivations ring hollow when childlike egos require coddling, whether publicly or privately.
Several weeks ago, a longtime Miami writer told me, sarcastically, “Enjoy year two with Brandon.” He insisted Marshall was a con man – always out for himself, but able to smooth-talk executives, coaches, media and fans into believing otherwise, no matter what his long, checkered history suggested.
Marshall has said the right things since arriving in Chicago, convincing many that his myriad issues are entirely behind him. I have heard and read the same explanations, and will choose to remain unsure of that, appropriately dubious of someone with multiple arrests. I guess I’m crazy that way.
There may be more bad days among the many good ones, which is fine as long as we’re only talking about an achy hip or to whom the ball is being thrown.
What’s clear is that at the very least, a new coach’s lofty words about selflessness will face a challenge.