BY Art Thiel 06:52PM 05/30/2018

Thiel: If honesty is a still a virtue, Marshall wins

The Seahawks’ new wideout, Brandon Marshall, knows he’s 34 and is recovering from a bad injury and a bad history. He’s hoping the truth sets him free.

Besides football, Brandon Marshall’s passion is mental-health advocacy. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

The Seahawks know well the dyspeptic NFL saga of WR Brandon Marshall — a splendidly talented wide receiver for 12 years, 23rd on the all-time list for receiving yards, who has been a frequent pain in the butt to teammates, coaches and cops.

So before the Seahawks became his sixth team, according to Marshall Wednesday after practice at team headquarters, “They did their due diligence, to say the least. They broke down everything since I’ve been in the league. We had some great, transparent, challenging conversations. I (was given) some tough questions.

“The screening process they take you through is worse than the TSA line.”

Given the Seahawks’ experiences with Percy Harvin and Malik McDowell, along with unusual characters such as Marshawn Lynch and Jimmy Graham, as well as the poor drafts of 2013-16, the Seahawks better have refined their examination tools to the sub-atomic level.

Since the apparent plan does not call for 2018 to be a drop-off year, the Seahawks can’t indulge in any more personnel whiffs.

Then again, Marshall is 34 and the club is not betting grandma’s savings on him turning back to what he was at 24. He’s on a one-year deal with minimal guarantees. If he screws up, the Seahawks are the last-chance saloon, where the barkeeper, is less a little less tolerant than he was.

“It could mean a lot; it depends on how it works out,” Carroll said. “I’m not asking him to come in here and be a spokesperson. I’ve told him I just want him to come in here and compete and show them how much he cares about playing this game.”

While he remains large (6-foot-5 and 232 pounds) and experienced, he is coming off left ankle surgery that ended his season after five games with the New York Giants last year, and is candid about where he is in the marketplace.

“I didn’t have a lot of offers,” he said, smiling. “I think the sentiment around the league is I’m done. I get it, rightfully so. When you get on the other side of 30, your production slips and (if) you have a big injury, people just count you out.”

Marshall also gets extra credit for an honest answer when it comes to his physical health for the NFL rigors.

“I feel good — I don’t feel great,” he said. “I got a lot of catching up to do to get into football shape. I’m not where I want to be, not even close. My goal is to be in midseason form by camp” starting in late July.

Marshall then won the Candor-Gram Trophy for his willingness to discuss publicly the mental health issues that have been with him throughout his life and NFL career, including four years with Denver, two with Miami, three with Chicago, two with the New York Jets and last season with the Giants. The issues helped lead to numerous encounters with law enforcement, women and his teams, including a one-game suspension by the NFL for an episode of domestic violence (here’s a list through 2012).

Addressing the annual meeting of NFL owners in March 2017, Marshall left the room spellbound with the story of his life before and after a 2011 diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.

“You could’ve heard a pin drop in the room,” Giants owner John Mara told USA Today. “The way Brandon was so frank and direct about his mental health issues in his life resonated with everyone in the room. He immediately helped humanize players more, which helped articulate that this business is about more than football or making money.”

In his first Seattle interview Wednesday, Marshall, who has been a strong advocate for mental-health help for young athletes, was open about his three-month outpatient treatment in 2011 at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Belmont, Mass., affiliated with Harvard University.

I couldn’t believe there were doctors and treatments out there that could make that big of a difference that quickly,” he said. “Everyone’s case is different, but I was in awe of the fact that (before treatment), I sat on my couch for a month with a hoodie on, couldn’t talk, wouldn’t talk, dealing with depression.

“A month and a half later, I’m at a hockey game watching the Bruins. I’m at baseball games eating hot dogs, having a beer — not a big beer drinker, but I tried it — high-fiving people I don’t know, sitting in coffee shops having conversations with strangers. That was a most amazing thing to me.”

Marshall’s willingness to be honest about his travail and diligent in his recovery struck a chord with Carroll.

“He is a tremendous young man,” he said. “He has learned from those lessons and he has shared it with the world. I think that’s probably part of the process for him that’s made him strong. I admire the heck out that.

“We get him as he is now. I’m not really concerned about what has happened in the past at this time, because he has worked his way through it and been very open.”

Not long after he was hired by the Seahawks in 2010, Carroll pursued Marshall in free agency. He plotted to fly him via float plane to the team’s headquarters along the Renton shore of Lake Washington.

“I think we flew him into the dock, or something silly like that,” Carroll said. “It was crazy; we never did it again. But we went all out and it didn’t work out.

“We’ve had our eye on him for a long time, because of his style of play. He’s very aggressive. He can be the big receiver in the offense.”

The Seahawks have 11 receivers on the 90-man roster for OTAs (organized team activities), all of whom are younger and faster and bring less baggage.

But Marshall seems to know a bit about a hard road.

“At this point in my career,” he said, “I’m focused on going out the right way.”

Eight years delayed, Marshall, properly screened, walks through the front door, as anyone else. The last chance to go out right rests with him.

 

 


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YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    Marshall should make the WR corps that much better. Unless he’s at the same level that Terell Owens was at when he tried out for the Hawks. I think if Darboh gets consistent playing time he could surprise.

    • art thiel

      My guess is the ankle surgery will limit his chance to make the roster, mostly from a conditioning standpoint. But he’s got seven weeks before camp.

  • ll9956

    Good article, Art. Your way of putting it akes me hope that Marshall shines.

    • art thiel

      If he makes it, lots of people will cheer, but he’s also left a trail of bitterness behind,

  • DJ

    Thanks Art!
    Hearing the right things all the way around. No doubt that Marshall can be a force when healthy. It would be really fun if it works out, as well as having his veteran experience. Would also be nice to see one of these Wiley veterans work out.
    Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      Odds are against him, but he’s used to that. He’s been humbled my multiple issues late in his career.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    Reading some of the interview , it sounds like the toe issue was a bigger deal than some might’ve understood . They got him on the cheap , and if he makes the cut and gives you 50 catches for 500 or 600 yards and 5 red zone touchdowns , it’s a great bargain . If he doesn’t make the 53 , literally nothing lost . Its a great situation for both him and us . Smart signing by the Hawks .

    Dez Bryant still out there , and Brandon Marshall gets signed first ; says something , eh ?

    • Centiorari

      That is my thoughts exactly, even if he gets cut it cost us 90k for some actual competition for the younger guys. Hopefully, he can provide some leadership and coaching for some of our bigger receivers who may not of had that similar experienced receiver to learn from yet. High point would be if they use him on routes similar to what Graham ran, but as a WR, to help Wilson out in the red zone. He doesn’t need speed to really be valuable to us, but we need to use him to the strengths he still has, 6’5″ and 232 lbs of boxing out the defender, perhaps even some WR blocking if he can do it.

      • art thiel

        Carroll said he wasn’t seeking mentoring from Marshall, just ballin’. And he’ll be playing the low-post game in the end zone that Graham did well.

    • art thiel

      Bryant would be nowhere near as affordable. He also has yet to be humbled.

  • Alan Harrison

    Mental illness should be treated like physical illness by society (not to mention insurance companies, who still deem mental treatment as sketchy and expensive – bastards). Just because a bone isn’t broken doesn’t mean there isn’t something wrong. Good for him to talk openly about it and continue to bring it out of the shadows. In her act, Maria Bamford put it perfectly when she sarcastically contrasted how people treat people with depression and how they treat people with physical ailments: “Well, apparently Jeff has cancer. Uh, I have cancer. We all have cancer. You go to chemotherapy you get it taken care of, am I right? You get up in the morning and go back to work.”

    • art thiel

      Taboos, however foolish, are harder to get rid of than credit card debt.

    • Husky73

      Watch Real Sports on HBO this week.

  • Ken S.

    Nice writeup, Art. What a deal for the Hawks. And for Brandon, too, if he does well. Maybe there’s still a good year or two in him. The Hawks certainly could use the help.

    • art thiel

      Thanks. Marshall is a bright guy, and if he keeps steady with his meds, he might be the red zone replacement for Jimmy Graham.

  • tor5

    A really intriguing story, Art. Thanks. Not knowing much about him, I watched Marshall’s presser and was very pleasantly surprised. I’ll be rooting for him for sure. As for your implied question in the headline, it’s hard to say.

    • art thiel

      I’m old enough to remember when honesty was a cultural value.

  • Effzee

    Watched the press conference. Impressive and inspiring. Totally rooting for him.

    • art thiel

      He definitely won the presser.

  • woofer

    A low-risk, potentially high-reward gamble. If he can get healthy, the talent is there. My hunch is that this turns out OK. Over and above his psychological issues, Marshall appears to be an extremely intelligent guy. If he can find a comfortable role in the locker room, this could work.

    • art thiel

      There’s little financial risk, but the bigger question is whether his banged body is ready for the NFL.

  • Parts

    I hope it works out for both Brandon and the Hawks.