Marshall bounces back from offseason of discontent
AP Sports Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colorado – Josh McDaniels’ tough love apparently has done the trick. Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall, whose temper tantrum at training camp drew a nine-day suspension, is back to being his Pro Bowl self.
In the last two weeks, Marshall, showing his head is clear and his hip is healed, has caught two big touchdown passes to help the unbeaten Broncos defeat Dallas and New England, respectively.
After his 51-yard TD against the Cowboys, in which Marshall avoided a half-dozen tacklers while zigzagging to the end zone, he broke down in tears and hugged McDaniels on the sideline and then again at the post-game podium.
“I don’t know when it clicked, but I’m happy it’s clicking and I think he is, too,” McDaniels said Thursday. “And our team’s all the better for it.”
On Sunday, Marshall made another outstanding play when he faked a fade into the end zone, spun at the 5-yard line and caught a pass from quarterback Kyle Orton, then twisted away from a Patriots defender and dived into the end zone with the tying touchdown in Denver’s 20-17 overtime win.
Marshall wasn’t much in the mood to talk about his own resurgence this week, only the Broncos’.
Asked if he finally felt like the receiver who had 100-plus receptions the last two seasons, Marshall suggested it was simply a matter of his number being called.
“Every year, you all can ask that question, if I put up good numbers last year or the year before that,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time before you get your opportunities, if you come out and you’re not making plays, it’s just not because you’re not as good. It’s just you’ve got to play your role.”
Told that it appeared his surgically repaired hip was no longer a concern, Marshall retorted: “My hip? My hip? I had a 51-yard touchdown where I cut on my hip, stopped a couple of times, jumped up. I think that shouldn’t even be a question anymore.”
After scoring just twice in the final seven games last year, Marshall underwent hip surgery in the offseason and was told it was in worse shape than the team’s medical staff had led him to believe last season.
That was the beginning of his discontent in Denver.
He skipped out on the offseason workouts in protest of his medical treatment by the Broncos and also because the team rejected the trade request he made after they refused to renegotiate his contract.
Marshall is making about $2.2 million this season, a bargain for an elite receiver if he can prove his hip is no longer an issue and his numerous domestic disputes also are a thing of the past.
Marshall was the biggest pain in McDaniels’ side after Jay Cutler forced a trade to Chicago in April.
He spent almost all of training camp either in the trainer’s room or acting defiantly on the field after declaring the only reason he wasn’t AWOL was to avoid the daily fines.
McDaniels refused to rework his contract or give him a ticket out of town, and now Marshall’s a major reason Denver is 5-0 for the first time since 1998.
So, when did everything click with Marshall?
“I don’t know,” McDaniels said. “Without going back into the past, Brandon and I have never really had much of an issue with one another. We understand there’s a business side to it.”
In an interview with Michael Irvin for the NFL Network, Marshall indicated his epiphany came at halftime against Cleveland in Week 2.
Marshall stood like a statue on the sideline that afternoon while the Broncos offense ran 27 consecutive plays without him.
When his teammates filed out of the locker room at Invesco Field for the second-half kickoff, Marshall sat there and cried.
“I stayed and I sat in my locker, put my head down with a towel over my head. I thought I was the only one in there and I broke down,” Marshall told the network. “I heard a voice and it was Brian Dawkins. He tapped me four times on my back. He said, ‘Come on baby.’
“And once I heard that, it’s like my teammates are with me. … I’m going to get through this. And I think everything is on track, we’re on track. It’s exciting to be a Bronco.”
Marshall told Irvin he knew he was “going down the wrong road” during his defiant offseason behavior and ultimately heeded the advice of his agent, Kennard McGuire, to “shut your mouth, go out there and practice.”
He said his regretted the day at camp when he punted the ball in frustration instead of handing it to a ball boy and batted down passes that were thrown his way.
Now, Marshall’s back to being a playmaker on game days, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound mountain of muscle and speed who is a nightmare for defensive backs.
After admitting in August that he hadn’t bothered learning the playbook, he leads the Broncos with 24 catches for 283 yards.
Although there’s no indication the Broncos are going to rework his contract anytime soon, Marshall apparently has come to realize the best path to a big payday is through his play and not petulance.
He said he’s excited to work with at-risk youth again on his days off.
“I’m excited. I’ve never been more confident in my life and myself as far as the track I’m on, and I can honestly say that,” Marshall said. “When you’re doing the right thing off the field, it helps on the field, and vice versa. Just like coach always preaches complementary football, life is complementary too.”