Is Brandon Marshall Becoming a Distraction to the Bears?

Some media members think so, but is he?

The Chicago Bears take on the New York Giants Thursday night at Soldier Field, but while the players on the field will don the traditional colors of these two legendary NFC franchises, one player will stand out from the crowd.

Bears WR Brandon Marshall plans to wear green cleats for the game to promote Mental Health Awareness Week, and though he will be fined for wearing the shoes due to the NFL’s uniform policy, he is willing to pay the piper to make his statement.

Not only did Marshall say he would pay the fine to the NFL, but he also will match the amount he’s fined and donated it to charity.

This gesture isn’t the first time this week Marshall has gotten press coverage. He talked to the media after Sunday’s loss against the New Orleans Saints, after he was largely held in check in the offense while Alshon Jeffery set a record for most receiving yards by a Bears receiver. He said he “didn’t think the season was going to be like where it was going to be hard for me to get the ball,” and Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune took him to task:

“Hard for Marshall to get the ball? That is where the Pro Bowl receiver loses some credibility. Entering Week 5, Marshall had a team-high 41 targets, tied for sixth in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus, and four more than he had through the first four games in 2012. He had 27 catches through the first four games – four more than he had during that same span in ’12 when he set the franchise record with 118 receptions. In this loss, press box statistics gave Marshall five targets, putting him at 46. That is two more than Jeffery.”

It is part of the typical behavior pattern for receivers to demand the ball more, and throughout his career, Marshall has definitely fit that bill. Outside of that though, he has had well-publicized conflicts with management and coaches during his NFL career, and that is a large part of the reason why he has bounced around three different teams despite being one of the top receivers in the league.

His behavior this season has been off-putting at times, between his assertions that he was having a tough time learning Marc Trestman’s offense to the four days he took off for personal reasons before the regular season started. Add to that the issues that he is still having with his hip and foot, and it’s starting to become a trend for media members to label him a distraction in the locker room.

To his credit, Jay Cutler told ESPN Chicago hosts Marc Silverman and Tom Waddle that he talked to Marshall, and that the receiver was “in a great place.” He also said “a lot of this has gotten blown out of proportion a bit” when asked about Marshall’s comments about not getting the ball enough, and that does beg the question: is the media narrative on Marshall’s antics too sensationalist?

Yes, Marshall’s candid discussions about his struggles with mental illness have provided a backdrop for every columnist that decides they want to question whether or not he is relapsing into it, but the fact of the matter is that Marshall’s desire to get the ball thrown to him is an admirable quality in a wide receiver, and he shouldn’t sugarcoat that desire when he’s asked about it by media members.

After all, it isn’t like Marshall is some selfish lout who is ONLY looking out for his numbers. His motivation, as he has said time and again, is to help the team win, and he feels like the best way for him to do that is to get targeted with passes and make receptions. That selfless selfishness (try saying that three times fast) was on full display when Marshall invited Jeffery down to Florida during the offseason to work on their games, and the results are speaking for themselves as Jeffery is establishing himself as one of the better number two wide receivers in the league.

Marshall even recognizes the reason why he isn’t getting the ball as much, telling the media that he “put myself in position to be double covered. I’ve got to do a better job of making myself quarterback friendly so I can try and make a play for our offense.”

That statement doesn’t sound like a guy who just wants the ball so he can put up gaudy numbers and be famous. That sounds like a guy who wants to win, and between that and helping Jeffery out during the offseason, it would make a lot more sense to believe that he is working in the best interests of the team rather than the best interests of Brandon Marshall.

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