Brandon Marshall's Battle with Mental Illness Will Reap Benefits On & Off-Field

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2012

LAKE FOREST, IL - JUNE 12:  Brandon Marshall #15 of the Chicago Bears enjoys a laugh with a teammate during a minicamp practice at Halas Hall on June 12, 2012 in Lake Forest, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Brandon Marshall has probably been called a lot of things during his career, but probably never "brave."

Yet that's not a bad adjective at all for the gentleman who was a keynote speaker at the National Alliance on Mental Illness convention.

I'm not going to get into the details all that much, but what I will point out is this is a sign that Marshall will have a huge year.

Brandon Marshall has talent—clearly. Further, I'd say he has the talent to be an elite wide receiver. Not quite at that Calvin Johnson/Andre Johnson/Larry Fitzgerald level, but very, very good.

What has held him back has simply been himself. Marshall holds himself back every year.

It could be that Marshall is just a jerk. Maybe he's just a guy who isn't very nice or is too arrogant or any number of things.

However, his pattern of trouble—with coaches, players and people in general off the field—says to me that his mental issues did have at least something to do with his conduct.

Also, when you are struggling with issues like he is with Borderline Personality Disorder, the ability to concentrate for long periods of time and a penchant for poor decisions tends to be the result.

I can't make too many assumptions about Marshall's treatment. Therapy is likely, as are some sort of drugs, but I'm not familiar enough to say for sure.

I will say that in the last few months since this came to light, he seems a lot different.

Right about now, you're saying, "This is all well and good, AG, but what does this have to do with football?" And I don't blame you.

However, this has the possibility to completely blow up his game in a good way.

We know Marshall has the ability, but one of the things he lacks is consistency from pass to pass. Drops have plagued him off and on for years. I pointed out earlier that one of the problems with any mental illness is a general difficulty in maintaining focus.

If—and maybe it's a big "if"—Marshall is working hard enough, you could see a real difference in his drops this year. Depending on treatment, he could see a drastic improvement in his catches both easy and tough.

Focus will come from some peace of mind, which, ultimately, is what Marshall is looking for when battling his disease.

Along with the focus—and hopefully a happier state of mind—will come someone who just makes better decisions both on and off the field. Instead of reacting from whatever darker place his mind normally dwells in—anger, it seems—hopefully Marshall will be able to control his emotions and make more sound choices.

Which would result in fewer distractions off the field and an ability to play more effectively on it.

Another thing to consider is his situation. Yes, Marshall was happy to be in Denver, until he wasn't, and pleased to be in Miami, until he wasn't. While he is very happy and pleased to be with Chicago, will it last?

Well, he's back with Jay Cutler, with whom he has had a very good relationship overall and with a team which was anxious to get him (although again, Miami was as well).

On top of that, he appears to be in a better place mentally and emotionally than he has been in a very long time.

Again, how does this translate on the field? More focus, a more relaxed style of play and emotional control will all lead to big numbers.

Watching Marshall tackle his issues has been interesting and, in some ways, inspiring. I certainly applaud him for being so open about his issues and trying to raise awareness. Even if he never played another down, that would be impressive.

However, with his new attitude and focus, Marshall is poised for what should be his best season yet.


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