Brandon Marshall is doing things hes never done before, and the effect is bringing an almost palpable change in the chemistry within the Bears wide-receiver group. (Put another way, Roy Williams is gone, in more ways than one.)
Indeed, the first thing you notice isnt Marshall catching passes in drills or 7-on-7s or team sessions. Its what he was doing in warmups.
Marshall is treating the casual throw-and-catch prelim of organized team activity sessions with the same kind of spirit that is typically reserved for those drills when theyre run before a game.
Without degenerating into wanton rah-rah, Marshall is giving a high-five or back slap to each teammate coming in after making his catch. He runs even his warmup routes like they matter.
If hes seeming like a teacher or role model, its because he is, and thats exactly how he sees himself.
I guess its in me, in a way, Marshall said. It took seven years to harness it and put it in a positive direction, and Im excited about it.
This is the first year that Ive actually felt pressure as far as, Ive got to work because theres some young guys and Im getting older, but also, Im recognizing how important it is to bring those guys along. This is a first for me, but Im embracing the opportunity.
The contrast is nothing less than stark between this situation and last years with Williams, signed post-lockout to reprise the kind of season he had once under Mike Martz in Detroit, being anything but a role model for the Bears group of young wideouts.
Williams reported admittedly out of football shape, compromising his effectiveness with unfamiliar quarterbacks who were throwing to a receiver who was sub-standard out of breaks and achieving separation.
His suspect effort grated on some in his group, particularly when he was installed over Johnny Knox as one of the starting wideouts.
That is gone now. Instead of a receiver who fell well short of greatness, the Bears this year have brought in one who is at a point in his career when that has to be the absolute goal.
We strive for greatness, Marshall said. Even in warm-ups and in route running, we get upset when we drop balls or miss throws or call the wrong plays. We know what we expect out of each other, and we know what we expect of guys around us. So were excited.