Football / Sports

Bears' Brandon Marshall wants 'breakout year'

CHICAGO -- Three days after signing a contract extension that will keep him with the Bears through 2017, Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall was in a mood to go deep. During a news conference Thursday at Halas Hall to discuss his new deal, Marshall struck a heavily emotional tone, navigating through a maze of gratitude, reflection and fulfillment.

In a 10-minute opening statement, he thanked 56 people.

He called the March 2012 trade that brought him to the Bears from the Dolphins "career saving."

Twice he fought back tears, needing his bright orange handkerchief to wipe away the emotions that poured out as he thanked his agent, Kennard McGuire, for standing by him.

Marshall, as he has done since arriving in Chicago, again showcased his passionate, expressive deportment. And with his new contract, he's more ecstatic than ever to be a Bear, teamed with a quarterback in Jay Cutler whom he deeply appreciates, a coach in Marc Trestman he quickly has grown fond of and a supporting cast that he says provides "a safe environment" for his efforts to control his mercurial personality.

Finally, Marshall feels, everything is aligned.

"For anybody that's in a successful position or has been successful, it's about the team," he said. "It's about having the right people on the bus and having the right people in the right seats. And I think I figured it out."

Marshall had lobbied for a contract extension throughout 2013 but general manager Phil Emery repeatedly asked him to remain patient, to let the front office tend to more pressing business first.

Emery had 2014 free agents to retain and recruit with big-picture numbers to crunch. But he always let Marshall know he was valued.

"He told me the game plan," Marshall said. "He was honest."

In March, Marshall said, negotiations picked up. And eventually, with a contract that tacked three years and approximately $30 million onto his current deal, Marshall had everything he wanted -- the organization's trust, a belief in the offensive vision and long-term security.

So on the advice of McGuire, Marshall used his appearance Monday on "The View" to uncork a surprise signing, a guest shot that had even Emery on the edge of his seat.

"I was definitely watching with some anticipation," Emery said. "But you never know how things are going to go on TV."

The Bears' push to reward Marshall made perfect sense. In two seasons in Chicago, he has 218 catches, 2,803 yards and 23 touchdowns, eye-popping numbers that have added to a seven-season surge with three teams in which he has averaged 99 receptions, 1,249 yards and eight scores.

Recently, during an offseason when he has felt healthy and spry, Marshall approached Cutler to reveal his latest optimism spike.

"I said, 'This is going to be my breakout year,'" Marshall recalled. "Jay said, 'Dude, you had seven of them.' Jerry Rice had his breakout year in Year 11. So, I am in (season) nine. I think I can do it."

Emery has admired Marshall's talent for more than a decade -- back to the days when Marshall was playing safety at Central Florida. But now the GM notices Marshall's growth as a leader and praises "the precision and professionalism that he works with and grinds at getting better."

Marshall is now in line to make close to $40 million over the next four seasons, a nice reward certainly, but a per-year sum exceeded by less accomplished receivers such as Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace and Vincent Jackson.

But the money total, Marshall said he has come to understand, can't be his end all.

"I would love to be the highest-paid receiver in the league." Marshall said. "Every guy should work toward that. But (by accepting less money), we're able to have guys like (left tackle Jermon) Bushrod, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett.

"We have these guys that mean so much to this offense and the success of this team. It's one of those things that you really have to sit back and ask yourself, what is it really about?"

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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