Bears' Brandon Marshall on target for opener
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The Bears believe wide receiver Brandon Marshall will be ready to step up his game when the season opens Sunday against the Bengals.
George LeClaire | Staff Photographer
After a few days of mixed messages, all the principals seem to be in agreement that four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall is ready for action.
Marshall was back at practice Monday for the first time in nearly a week, but he returned from an extended but excused absence with good news about the surgical hip that had him frustrated a week earlier.
"I'm always concerned about my body," said the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder who set franchise records last season with 118 catches and 1,508 yards. "It doesn't matter if it's a little scratch, I'm always concerned.
"(But) coming off my third hip surgery, structurally, everything is good. The joint is in amazing shape. So that's exciting. It's going on eight months out, and I'm ready to roll."
Given the prima donna nature of many NFL wide receivers, some of Marshall's complaints last week were chalked up as typical whining from a talented star.
Others worried that the rehab wasn't nearly as far along as it should be and that the Bears' go-to guy would be just a shell of his former self.
Marshall had talked vaguely about being pushed by some members of the organization, and there was a rumor he was unhappy because others weren't as concerned with his injured hip as they should be.
Marshall's physical play on the field and the fact that he has missed just five games in seven years should be proof enough that he's not among the divas in the NFL who play the same position.
And he refuted the notion that he was being pushed too fast, too soon in his recovery.
"Coach (Marc) Trestman has been great," he said. "(General manager) Phil Emery has been great. We've sat down plenty of times talking about what we need to do to get to this week. So they've been really helpful. But now it's go time."
When Trestman sees Marshall at practice, even though he is occasionally limited as a precautionary measure, the coach doesn't see a player who is frustrated.
"It's not really showing up in practice," Trestman said. "He practiced (Monday), and he practiced very well. He's practicing hard, and he's running at full speed, (but) maybe (he's still) working through it in his mind.
"So we have to communicate. We have to make sure we're not going to do anything to hurt him."
Emery said he has been seeing a player ready to go for weeks, even when Marshall was taking the occasional day off during training camp to give his hip a break.
"He's going to get mad at me for saying this because I have been telling him this all summer," Emery said, "(but) I see a guy that is better than he was last year. I see a guy that is more dynamic. I see a guy better in and out of his breaks.
"I see a stronger player. I think he made the comments that he was at 4.5 percent body fat. He looks it."
Marshall represents Exhibit A, when the GM talks about the mission to upgrade the talent around quarterback Jay Cutler. Trading a pair of third-round picks for the enigmatic wide receiver was Emery's first big move after he was hired by the Bears.
Marshall came cheaply because of off-the-field incidents and character concerns, but it was a gamble that, so far, has paid huge dividends.
He immediately became the king-size wide receiver the Bears' offense was lacking, and Emery sees the arrow on Marshall still pointing up after seven NFL seasons.
"When you stand up behind Brandon Marshall, you realize how big that man is at the position that he plays," Emery said. "He's at an elite level for his position in terms of size, dynamic ability and production. I don't see any back off. Actually, I see a better player."
The player's frustration, according to the GM, stemmed from a desire to continually perform at the highest level.
"Obviously, he was a little frustrated about where he is at, and he's definitely shared that with (me)," Emery said. "Those are conversations that we've had, and that's just an athlete wanting to be elite, wanting to be the best at his game.
"His goal is to be the best wide receiver in the NFL on the best team. I've got no problems with those goals. I've got no problems talking to him about those goals."
•Follow Bob's NFL reports on Twitter @BobLeGere, and check out his Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com/sports.
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