BOURBONNAIS -- Sure, he's biased, but wide receiver Brandon Marshall seems sincere when he touts quarterback Jay Cutler as an MVP candidate.
Marshall said as much to Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, who was in town Wednesday with the NFL Network.
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"I don't know why they wouldn't believe it," Marshall said, when asked if Irvin was buying his praise for Cutler. "This is a different person. I don't know this new guy. I don't know this new Jay Cutler. Maybe his new name is like Joshua or something, just a totally different guy."
Four of Marshall's five 100-catch seasons have been with Cutler as his primary quarterback. They came into the NFL together as rookies with the Denver Broncos in 2006, and Marshall says it's a different Cutler in 2014.
"It's night and day," Marshall said. "He's a totally different person, totally different athlete. He's the first one in the building, and I try to be the first one in the building. He's there at like 5 a.m. He lives it.
"I think he has a great balance to his life now with his personal stuff. I won't go there; he hates when people go there with his personal stuff. I love him, and I love catching balls, so let's keep it (going)."
Since coming to the Bears in 2009 -- Marshall followed in 2012 -- Cutler has married Kristin Cavallari and the couple has two children. Things have changed on the field as well, which Marshall said makes Cutler an MVP candidate.
"With Coach Trestman and (offensive coordinator Aaron) Kromer and our offense," Marshall said. "Our offensive linemen are studs; they work together, and we have a special group at the skill position with Matt Forte and Alshon (Jeffery) and Martellus (Bennett) and Q (Marquess Wilson). I think absolutely (he could be MVP)."
Marshall says he even has noticed a difference in Cutler from last year, when he posted an 89.2 passer rating, the highest of his career.
"I just think we're more efficient," Marshall said. "He's leading us, and it's a trickle-down effect. From a leadership standpoint, he's bringing everyone along with him; he's making everyone better. As far as how efficient he is, it just makes our offense that much better and gives everyone confidence."
Long road back:
Guard Kyle Long received medical clearance to resume football activities and will begin conditioning activities for the next couple of days before he practices in pads with teammates.
Coach Marc Trestman said the plan is for Long, who has yet to practice in training camp because of a viral infection, to participate in individual drills during Saturday night's padded practice at Soldier Field.
"He's got to get his legs back underneath him," Trestman said. "We'll see where Saturday night goes, and with Sunday off, we'll be ready to go (Monday)."
Last year as a rookie, Long missed the off-season program because of Oregon's late school year, but he still made the Pro Bowl as an alternate, proving to be a quick study. And he still has some catching up to do.
"Every player needs to practice," Trestman said. "It doesn't matter what year, how long they've played, whether they've been an all-pro or otherwise.
"That's why we spend so many days between each game because you've got to practice to get it right. So he's missed out, no doubt about it, and we'll try to accelerate the process as soon as he gets back in there."
Eben Britton, who has been taking most of the first-team reps at Kyle Long's right guard spot, did not finish Wednesday's practice because of a hamstring injury and is day to day.
Cornerback Tim Jennings (quad) dressed and did some light individual drills but did not participate in any team activities. Rookie Kyle Fuller took Jennings' place with the first team.
Safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder) remain on the active PUP (physically unable to perform) list, and wide receiver Terrence Toliver is still out with a toe injury.