Brandon Marshall, 34, thinks his first full day in Seahawks camp shows he is back, can be a “beast” again
Brandon Marshall was near tears. He was back inside an NFL huddle—finally—with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ starting offense.
Then Marshall was nearer to “the beast I’ve always been.” And more quickly than he thought he’d be doubting months ago.
On his busiest day yet as a Seahawk, the 34-year-old with six 100-catch seasons in the NFL showed glimpses of why Seattle signed him this spring. Marshall showed evidence he is not finished, as most around the league believe.
The six-time Pro Bowl selection showed his skills for getting open and scoring touchdowns in tight coverage, knacks that made him one of the game’s preeminent wide receivers from 2006 through 2015.
Marshall was, for this one training-camp practice, back. Back from a career-low 18 catches with the New York Giants in an injury-shortened 2017. Back from the Giants giving up on him this spring. Back from rehabilitation that followed the two surgeries since October and a recent setback with his hamstring.
He made a twisting catch of a back-shoulder throw from Wilson just inside the goal line during a red-zone scrimmage, with rookie cornerback Tre Flowers tightly covering him. The 6-foot-5 Marshall moved with a slip of his arms and torso around Flowers toward the sideline. Wilson’s perfect throw nestled into Marshall’s outstretched mitts near the goal-line pylon. Flowers was helpless.
Marshall was ecstatic.
He ran toward the huddle and met Wilson running at him about a third of the way back, as if this was a real game. He and the quarterback shared a leaping, giddy hip bump. The big wide receiver let out a huge roar.
“I’m not here to just be ‘a guy,’ ” Marshall proclaimed later Thursday, the sixth day of practice in Seahawks training camp.
“I’m here to be the beast that I’ve always been. I’m confident I’ll be able to do that in the next couple weeks.”
That “beast” admitted he was broken somewhat by the injuries, the belief around the league that he’s done, the doubts.
“I’m not going to lie to you guys: Rehabbing can be a really challenging situation. And this was one of the toughest things I’ve ever been through as an athlete,” Marshall said. “One, you’ve got the I’m-aging part out there. And you’ve got the self doubt creeping in, self talk creeping in. Then production slips and you get cut. All this negative stuff is happening while you are laying on a table trying to be able to walk again.
“So, yes, it’s very difficult. And the only thing to get you over that hump is actually doing it, and making those plays that you’ve made in the past. So just being able to be out there and feel the grass the way I’ve felt it before, my feet under me, was special. Then catching the ball, that’s special. Being able to have a defender in front of you, that’s special.
“I almost had tears in my eyes today, being able to go in the huddle and break the huddle, just because of all the work I’ve put in.”
Marshall described his tour not across the country but the globe in search of remedies for a foot issue he said had bothered him since 2015. That was his last 100-catch season, with 1,502 yards and a league-leading 14 touchdowns, for the New York Jets. He was in Europe getting Regenokine treatment, the blood-spinning therapy reputed to accelerate healing that Seahawks K.J. Wright, Tyler Lockett, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and others had last summer.
“I’ve been across the world trying to get healthy,” Marshall said. “I’ve been to Germany. I’ve been to London. I’ve been to Switzerland. I’ve been to Arizona. I’ve been to New York. I’ve been all over the damn place trying to get my damn feet right.”
His feet—and his hands, and his game—looked damn right on Thursday. So did the Seahawks’ decision in late May to sign him to a low-risk, one-year contract worth the veteran minimum of $1.1 million.
“I’m definitely ecstatic for feeling somewhat like myself today,” he said.
Marshall’s performance came one practice after the Seahawks learned top wide receiver Doug Baldwin is going to be out for much of August, if not all the preseason, with a knee injury. Marshall has a wide-open opportunity to step into a starting role before the season begins Sept. 9 at Denver. The Broncos are one of his five former teams.
His first full day with team number six was wildly encouraging.
“Today was the first day I really felt like myself,” Marshall said. “That’s the best I’ve felt in over a year. I’m still trying to get there, in midseason form. I have time. But today felt good.
“It reminded me that I can still play some ball.”
Marshall said the touchdown Thursday came off an adjustment Wilson and he made in the middle of the red-zone scrimmage pitting the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 2 defense. Marshall had made an adjustment during an earlier route that Wilson hadn’t seen before, and the quarterback’s pass sailed far past Marshall incomplete.
The two stars talked. They got connected. Then: touchdown.
Marshall has 82 of those in the regular season since he entered the NFL in 2006. That’s second among all receivers in the league active and under contract. Larry Fitzgerald has 110 for Arizona since 2004. Currently unsigned tight end Antonio Gates has 114 TD catches since 2003.
“Touchdowns win games. Touchdowns get you paid,” said Marshall, who has earned $79.2 million in his 12 previous NFL seasons.
“I take a lot of pride in the red zone.”
Thursday was evidence Wilson may have a huge, and hugely experienced, target to throw to in 2018, even with Jimmy Graham gone in free agency to Green Bay.
“Brandon is a 13-year, 14-year pro, and he’s been super, super special over the years. It’s exciting just to just be able to talk ball with him,” Wilson said. “He really understands the game. He really understands third-down concepts, red-zone stuff. He’s just super intelligent. He’s been one of the best receivers in the National Football League for a long time.
“To have him on our football team is a great thing. We’ve been able to throw a little bit and, obviously, talk a lot of ball. So it’s going to be exciting to see him go once he can.”
Thursday, he did. So is Marshall now indeed back? Does this day prove he is not done, after all? That he is ready to seize a starting job in a Seahawks receiving unit that needs his huge self now that Graham is gone, now that Baldwin is gone to who knows where getting what Carroll Tuesday called “special treatment” that may be the same as or similar to Regenokine?
“I’m getting there,” Marshall said, grinning. “Thank you.
“This is definitely a unique situation for me, coming off two surgeries. And kind of rushing rehab because I was cut, and a couple teams started calling. You know, you’ve got to prepare for a workout—when you are not ready to work out. So it was a unique situation all this offseason, pretty much rehabbing for eight months. Didn’t have time to really train.”
Thursday was a hint Marshall may be back. Yes, it was only Aug. 2, seven days before the first preseason game and five weeks before the games get real.
But it was far more than many in the league thought Marshall had left to give.
“I’m that guy. I’m that aging football player, right? So many years...,” he said.
“I’m going to let my play do all the talking.”