It's difficult to say who was happier at Thursday's news conference touting Brandon Marshall's three-year $30 million contract extension, the wide receiver or Bears general manager Phil Emery.
The contract, which runs through the 2017 season, was ceremoniously signed on the daytime talk show "The View," three days before Marshall and Emery appeared together at Halas Hall -- or was it on the bow of The Good Ship Lollypop?
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"Great teammate," Emery said of Marshall, whom he traded for two years ago, shortly after becoming the team's GM. "This is a man that's grown every day. Every time we have a conversation and engage each other, I just see growth as a person. I see a very thoughtful, engaging, giving person. Somebody that reaches out to others and through reaching out to others has grown himself."
Marshall had found trouble off the field in previous stops in Denver and Miami, including reports of violence against women and a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. As a result, Emery was able to get the 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver for the bargain price of two third-round draft picks. That gamble by Emery now looks like robbery given Marshall's two-year totals of 218 receptions, 2,803 yards, 23 touchdowns for the Bears along with his fourth and fifth Pro Bowl berths.
Marshall credits the nurturing environment he found at Halas Hall with his personal and professional growth. Although Marshall thanked everyone from the team trainers to the groundskeepers, he singled out Emery, coach Marc Trestman and quarterback Jay Cutler, with whom he enjoyed his first professional success when both played for the Denver Broncos.
"I remember talking to Jay my last year in Miami (2011)," Marshall said. "I started talking to him about possibly getting traded to the Bears. I was like, 'Man, that would be cool, but I don't think they'll do it. They're way too conservative and I have a past.' Jay was like, 'No, we'll get it done.'
"Fast forward a few months. I'm sitting in a hotel in Boston with my wife (Michi) and my agent calls and says, 'Man, you've been traded.' We (had) made a list of three teams, and Chicago was No. 1. I wanted to be back with Jay. That was another prayer answered."
But Marshall said he had other prayers answered and he was a long way from completing his thank-yous.
"(Bears president and CEO) Ted Phillips, taking a chance on me, thank you so much," Marshall said before turning to Emery, who was seated next to him. "Phil, I really appreciate you. I think it paid off for both of us.
"That was a bold. I don't think there was any other teams that would have pulled that one off.
"I really appreciate you. There are so many times when you've just embraced me and accepted me for who I am. After tough losses, that pat on the back, that tight hug, to get me through. It means a lot and says a lot about who you are and how you're running this whole deal."
Marshall said there was some trepidation on his part when Trestman was hired last off-season to replace Lovie Smith. But his fears were soon allayed. Marshall's numbers dipped slightly last season from his first year with the Bears, but he said for the first time in his life he became an unselfish player, largely as a result of Trestman's influence.
"I've played for some great coaches," Marshal said. "(But) what I'm about to say about Coach (Trestman) has nothing to do with football: Best in the business. So thankful that you're here coach. Coach is amazing. He's a man that I look up to. He's a man that I would like to be one day.
"The culture that he's forming here with the help of Phil and the McCaskeys and everyone upstairs, I've never been around it. He puts us in position every single day to grow as men. I don't think we would be sitting here if it wasn't for coach and me believing in him and his coaching staff. He's a man's man. He knows how to lead alpha males."
And Marshall is Exhibit A.
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