The six-time Pro Bowl receiver joins Seattle at age 34, surrounded by questions about his health and his past off-field issues. “It’s my job to be reliable and dependable every day,” he said.
He was humble. He was engaging. He was real.
Brandon Marshall’s introductory news conference at the VMAC Wednesday didn’t lack for authenticity. The Seahawks’ newest receiver was candid about his sordid past, mental-health struggles and dwindling star power.
The six-time Pro Bowler knows why most teams weren’t interested in a 34-year-old coming off a severe ankle injury. He understands why the Seahawks asked “a lot of tough questions” given the legal issues that followed him throughout his 20s.
To see Marshall at the podium was to see a man as self-aware as he was self-determined.
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So here’s the question: Should people root for him?
It would be disingenuous to praise Marshall’s character without detailing a host of unflattering incidents that have occurred throughout his life.
This is a man who has been arrested five times since 2004, with charges ranging from domestic violence to assault to DUI. This is a man whose wife — claiming self-defense, according to the police report — reportedly stabbed him following an argument in 2011.
This is a man involved in a 2007 nightclub fight that led to the fatal shooting of his then-Broncos teammate Darrent Williams; a man who defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson called a “drama queen” who “quit” on the Jets while they were teammates in 2016.
On-the-field production may be what matters most to the majority of Seahawks fans, but given the backlash Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett endured over the past couple of seasons, it doesn’t appear to be the only thing that matters.
So, again — is Marshall someone you should get behind?
A cursory glance at his past would suggest no, but such glances shouldn’t be cursory. It is essential to point out that Marshall is still married to his wife, whom he regularly praises, and that no domestic-violence charge against him ever stuck.
Additionally, Marshall, who was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder — a condition marked by emotional instability and extreme shifts in one’s sense of self — has been publicly dedicated to spreading mental-health awareness for the past seven years. The primary objective of Project 375, a nonprofit organization he co-founded with his wife, is to remove the stigma associated with mental illness.
Marshall’s legal troubles all but disappeared after he sought treatment. He has been transparent about all his transgressions, which Seahawks coach Pete Carroll cited as a testament to his reform.
And when asked about the Brandon of today vs. the Brandon of the past, Marshall was his usual forthcoming self.
“When I first got in the league, I was a football player. I didn’t understand how big of an opportunity this was and how much of a blessing it was. I didn’t understand how to conduct myself in front of the camera, and dealing with PR. So when I got to Chicago, once I got through my off-field issues I had, I still wore my emotions on my sleeve and still made mistakes. Chicago taught me so much about leadership, it taught me so much about how to conduct myself in the good times and the bad times,” Marshall said. “I’m not patting myself on the back, but I’m patting myself on the back from where I was in 2006 to where I am now. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of the husband that I am, I’m proud of the father that I am and the teammate that I am. It’s my job to be reliable and dependable every day.”
It’s important to note that a professional athlete is never more charming than when he is introduced to a new fan base and media corps. It’s equally important to note that athletes who appear benevolent or reformed regularly disappoint those who put their faith in them.
In this case, though, I don’t know — Marshall’s new perspective on life seems genuine. He seems determined to deliver a second act worthy of a standing ovation.
Football-wise, it’s hard to predict how much Marshall will contribute. Despite leading the NFL in touchdown receptions in 2015 and logging six seasons with at least 100 catches, his age and injuries cast doubt on his future. Sure things don’t sign one-year deals that top out at $2 million if they hit all of their incentives.
But let’s say Marshall does creep back to the form that put him 23rd on the all-time receiving yards list. Let’s say he produces numbers resembling the ones Terrell Owens or Marvin Harrison put up when they were 34. Let’s say he has that key red-zone catch that propels the Seahawks to a win and puts them in playoff contention.
Should fans be happy for him?
At this point, I say yes. Receivers are judged on how they run their routes. The one Marshall is running these days has earned him that respect.