With his fourth team in three years, Brandon Marshall is ready to let the numbers speak for themselves.
And lately, his don’t look great.
“I’m done; I’m washed up. That’s what my film says this year,” he’ll tell you. “It is what it is.”
But the often outspoken wideout with six Pro Bowls to his name will say it with a smile. He may know something the rest of the NFL doesn't — including the two teams who have cut him in the past seven months. But he isn’t ready to reveal the secret just yet.
Wednesday, his newly minted New Orleans teammates and coaches got a glimpse, as the 34-year-old appeared in his first practice with his new team after the Saints signed him to a one-year contract Monday.
With his 6-foot-5, 232-pound frame, Marshall dwarfed the rest of New Orleans’ healthy receiving corps, including one the NFL’s hottest receivers in Michael Thomas. During the portion of practice open to media Wednesday, Marshall stood in the back of the line for drills but flashed sharp cuts and a burst of speed not always common for a veteran potentially past his prime.
For the Saints, Marshall enters as an eager weapon, ready to be unleashed.
“If you’re a guy that’s motivated and willing to put in the work, there’s no reason why you can’t contribute on a team,” he said. “There’s no reason why guys who have the heart and the want-to can’t play into their mid or late-30s.”
Brandon Marshall signed with the New Orleans Saints on Monday, a few days after veteran Dez Bryant inked a deal with the team but tore an Achi…
Motivation and drive can make great sound bites, but they don’t mean much without the physical domination that allowed Marshall to gain at least 1,000 yards eight times in a nine-year stretch from 2007-15, with four separate teams no less.
But recently, the 13-year veteran’s body has held him back. He left the Jets after the 2016 campaign in search of teammates who could help take him to the promise land, and he didn’t have to look far before latching on with Odell Beckham Jr., Eli Manning and the Giants.
“But things didn’t go right for us there,” he said.
He suffered a season-ending ankle injury five games into his two-year contract after totaling 18 catches for 154 yards and zero touchdowns. After the Giants cut Marshall in April, citing a failed physical, he signed with Seattle in May but struggled to reach full strength after revealing he also underwent toe surgery in the offseason to relieve an injury that had hampered him since 2015.
“I’d say it was Week 3 or Week 4 when everything relaxed a little,” he said.
Oddly enough, that same milestone marked a downward trend in his usage with the Seahawks. After Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson targeted Marshall 18 times in his first three games, the Pittsburgh native only saw four more balls come his way, turning them into two catches and 16 yards. He was cut Oct. 30.
“I spent so much of my time, most of my career, as the guy on top, an All-Pro Pro Bowl guy. Being cut two times in a year is interesting,” he said. “But it builds a lot of character.
“So when Seattle cut me, I just continued to work out, stay in shape and have faith. I made a few phone calls to see if someone could pull a favor to get me a workout.”
These last few weeks of grinding nearly were all for naught. The Saints brought in Marshall, along with former Cowboys star wide receiver Dez Bryant, for a workout last week, looking to provide depth for a receiving core wrought with injuries.
Beyond Thomas and his 78 catches, running back Alvin Kamara (55 catches) and tight end Ben Watson (27) rank second and third for the Saints in receptions this season. Veteran Ted Ginn Jr. ranks fourth, and he’s been on injured reserve since mid-October, joining fellow wideouts Cameron Meredith and Tommylee Lewis.
For the second straight week, the Saints are adding a Pro Bowl wide receiver to their roster.
Marshall came to New Orleans the first time prepared, a gameday suit for a road trip to Cincinnati and all, but coach Sean Payton and the Saints gave Bryant the nod. He lasted just two practices before suffering a season-ending tear of his Achilles tendon Friday.
Having spent ample time away from the game after his own injury last year, Marshall understood Bryant’s own hurdle to get game-ready after time off.
“I was devastated for him,” he said. “Dez Bryant is still a talent, and I hate to see how this year has played out for him. He should have been on someone’s roster in OTAs and camp. My heart hurts for him.”
At the same time, Marshall knew what the news could mean for his own career. Though he wanted to watch the Saints’ eventual thrashing of the Bengals last Sunday, New Orleans personnel had him on a plane headed back to New Orleans during the game.
With the Saints, Marshall enters what he called “a wide receiver’s dream” with future Hall of Famer Drew Brees under center. The pro-style offense mimics much of what he ran during his three seasons with the Bears from 2012-14, and for good reason. Current Los Angeles Rams offensive line coach Aaron Kromer joined the Saints offensive staff in 2008, and Marc Trestman spent 2007 as a consultant for Payton. Trestman was named the Bears head coach, with Kromer as his offensive coordinator, in January 2013.
In his first season with the pair in Chicago, Marshall caught 100 balls for 1,295 yards and 12 scores. But with nine separate offensive coordinators during his playing career, Marshall said he’s learned to adapt. His biggest challenge over the coming days, he said, is less physical and more mental.
“A slant is a slant. A seam is a seam. You’ve just got to understand the terminology and the timing with your quarterback,” he said. “Obviously, there’s some things that are different in the playbooks, but there are some things that are just memory, so once you pick up the playbook, you’ll learn where you’re supposed to be.”
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Brees and Marshall have played on two Pro Bowl teams together, and while their careers have run parallel, the Saints quarterback said he’s become a fan of the newest member of his wide receiving corps.
In Marshall, he sees versatility, a big frame unafraid to go down the sidelines or across the middle — a weapon that could make this potent Saints offense even more dangerous.
“He’s a big target and has a big catching radius,” Brees said. “Just watching him today, it was pretty impressive. I’m really excited about that.”
But one thing about his new target made Brees speechless. While becoming the only wide receiver in NFL history to record six seasons with at least 100 catches, Marshall has never appeared in a postseason game. With all the achievements he’s piled up since 2006, the UCF-grad has an opportunity to breech unknown territory at his latest home.
“It’s an exciting offense to play in,” Brees said. “You have the chance to be successful and have the ball get spread around week to week, so everybody gets opportunities. “So a guy like him, a veteran guy at this stage in his career would want to be a part of something like that.”