The 34-year-old Marshall, in his first year with the Seahawks, will play in Denver on Sunday for the first time since leaving the Broncos in 2010. But will he look like the Marshall of old?
Brandon Marshall believes.
He has to. If he doesn’t, who will?
On Jan. 19, when the first-year Seahawks wide receiver was still a 33-year-old free agent recovering from season-ending toe and ankle surgeries, a follower asked the aging veteran a question on Twitter.
“Proudest moment of (your) career so far?” inquired @WhatThaWiLL.
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Marshall responded matter-of-factly:
“Next years Come Back player of the year award.” [sic]
That might be considered an unrealistic expectation, considering that Marshall produced career-lows in catches (18), receiving yards (154), yards per catch (8.6) and touchdowns (0) in five games with the Giants last season. In fact, his outlook was so unenticing that the 6-foot-5, 232-pound wide receiver settled for a one-year deal with the Seahawks in May worth just $90,000 guaranteed.
The NFL, it seems, no longer believes in Brandon Marshall.
But when he sent that tweet, did the aging wideout believe his own words?
“Well, obviously you haven’t been around me a lot. I’m not going to say anything like that,” the 13th-year pro said on Thursday, standing at a podium, refraining from reasserting his guarantee.
Then he reconsidered.
“Well, maybe (I will say it),” Marshall added with a laugh, gaining momentum. “No, I absolutely believed it. I’m a competitor. That’s why I’m here. The reason I’m still playing is because I never felt like I’ve ever arrived. I always feel like you can get better. I definitely had to overcome a lot of obstacles, but that (comeback player of the year award) is the goal. That’s my mindset.”
Fittingly, Marshall’s comeback tour kicks off with games at Denver and Chicago, cities where the 34-year-old wideout spent a combined seven of his 12 seasons in the NFL. Remarkably, he’ll play at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on Sunday for the first time since he left the team in 2010.
Gone is the guy who posted 327 catches, 4,019 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns in four star-making seasons with the Broncos from 2006 to 2009.
At least, he’s gone on paper.
“Last week was the first week where I felt 100 percent,” Marshall said. “Now it’s just knocking the rust off and getting in game shape. But two days before the Oakland (preseason) game was when I was like, ‘Wow, OK. This is what it feels like to be where I was for most of my career.’ So I’m excited about that.
“With that in mind, (the world) hasn’t seen a lot of that. There’s a lot of things I haven’t been able to do because I’ve been nursing this or nursing that or recovering from this or that. So I’m still trying to prove myself to not only the world, but most importantly my teammates and my coaches here.
“On paper, it’s a 34-year-old receiver with two down years. So every day I go out there, I remind myself: I want to prove to No. 3 (quarterback Russell Wilson) what type of receiver I am and what he has out there.”
Marshall has proven plenty to his teammates through an impressive preseason, and not just via a string of consistent on-field production.
“His vast knowledge of the game is just incredible,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin, 29, said on Wednesday. “I was just picking his brain earlier about some things, about offenses and what he’s seen in his history.
“Obviously the physical presence he brings to the football field, he’s extremely gifted with that, with his size. But he’s so nimble. He’s so quick, and it’s fun to be able to go back and forth with a guy that has so much knowledge about the sport. I think that part of it, just in itself, is going to be a huge positive for us.”
Marshall’s presence will be even more of an asset, of course, if the 6-5 receiver can provide a consistent red zone target to pair with Baldwin and fourth-year wide receiver Tyler Lockett.
On Sunday, he’ll be faced with a Denver secondary that finished fourth in the NFL in passing defense in 2017.
“He’s fit in really well and we’re excited to include him in the offense. We’re going to try to make him look really good,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said with a smirk. “That’s the idea.”
“I think he’s caught over 950 footballs before in the National Football League,” added quarterback Russell Wilson about Marshall, who has actually caught 959 passes with 82 touchdowns in 12 seasons. “There’s guys who haven’t played 950 plays. Think about how many catches he’s had. He’s a true superstar. He can make all the plays.”
Or, he could. The question is whether he still can.
Marshall’s stance — first on social media, then in front of the working media — is clear.
Standing at a podium on Thursday, the NFL Comeback Player of the Year hopeful wore a white shirt with a single word printed across his chest in green ink: