I'm going to let some time go by before I decide what side of the argument I stand in regards to Brandon Marshall. I was all in favor of the Broncos letting 2009 play out before deciding what to do about Marshall's contract. There was risk, on and off the field, and patience was the best answer. While there were some troubling times during Training Camp, it was the right decision, even Marshall stated it was the best thing that could have happened.
Marshall has had a great season and proved that he has come back, all the way, from the hip surgery he had last winter. He also proved he could stay out of trouble off the field, at least for the past 9 months. I was beginning to believe that the Broncos should, and would, keep Marshall. Depending on the labor situation, there are plenty of ways that could happen, even if Marshall wanted out. That's what makes the events of earlier today that much more disappointing, on both sides.
A couple of days ago, Brandon Marshall pulled up lame in the early portion of practice. We know it was in the beginning of the workout because the media, only allowed to watch the first portion of practice, were still observing the action. Marshall was unable to practice yesterday with the injury - not necessarily a surprise as players are rested with muscle strains during the week all the time.
Now is where it gets a bit confusing. What we do know is Josh McDaniels spoke to Marshall this morning and informed him he would deactivated. It is also apparent that Marshall, in some way, informed McDaniels that he would not be able to play on Sunday.
I think that is a clear point to make here. Despite McDaniels saying during his press conference that it was a coach's decision, Marshall was not going to be available to play anyway - at least in Marshall's opinion.
"I don’t think coach ever played in the NFL, so for my hamstring to be feeling the way it felt, it’s tough for me to go out there and expect to play at a high level" said Marshall earlier today.
This isn't a coach sending a message to a player by benching him in the final game of the season - Marshall is not healthy and would not have played anyway.
Here is were it gets disappointing to me. The complete lack of communication between Marshall and McDaniels.
Now, this isn't the first time that Brandon Marshall level of injury has been called into question. It happened earlier this season - which led to Marshall's infamous practice incident. It also happened during training camp in 2007 when Mike Shanahan took to the media to call out his talented WR.
On August 10, 2007, after missing a few days of practice with a sore hamstring, Shanahan essentially ordered Marshall back on the field -
Friday morning, Head Coach Mike Shanahan told the injured wide receiver that he would be donning the shoulder pads and going through the full morning’s work.
"I told him this morning that he had to work through it. We took a look at the MRI (examination) and even though it is painful, it is supposed to be painful, but you have to work through it," Shanahan said.
"He said it was just to challenge me, to see if I was mentally strong," Marshall said. "He knew that I was in pain, and that it hurt, but he also knows it’s one of those things where you have to get out there, push yourself and be mentally tough."
"I think early in practice he could feel the pain," Shanahan said, "but he worked through it and I think he feels better right now and that is part of the process."
Added Marshall: "I was shocked. I was scared. But I guess that’s what it takes. Coach has 30 years of experierene, and this is my second year, so of course I’ve just got to sit back and listen and go with the process."
The process orginally called for Marshall to work through the individual and installation drills at the start of practice and then watch the remainder of the periods from the sidelines.
"They told me I was supposed to be done within the first 20 minutes," he said. "But it warmed up so good (I stayed in there).
"I didn’t open up to 100 percent but I opened up to where I could compete."
"I was kind of hesitant at first, but as you can see, I’ve got a smile on my face," Marshall said after Friday’s practice.
"It was just scar tissue in there. It was me not being mentally tough," he said. "I’m sure there’s going to be a day where I’m down in the future. It’s one of those things I’m going to have to push through."
Added Shanahan: "You have to fight through a little pain and scar tissue but that is just part of it. How long is it going to take? Probably the same length of time it took these guys to get ready for the first game. He is in pretty good condition because he has been working out in the weight room."
The story is pretty similar if you ask me, both to today's situation and what happened in Training Camp this year.
Brandon Marshall wants to get paid - we all know that. There was also a time that Marshall did not want to be a Bronco. Could this situation be another example of Marshall trying to protect himself - since he likely believes that his season, including another Pro Bowl and another 100 catches, means he'll likely get a big deal from another team?
It's possible. Marshall's actions in the past cannot be ignored when looking at this and trust has been an issue between Marshall and the Broncos, likely since that day in August, 2007.
It is important that all 53 men in the locker room are going in the same direction, playing for a common goal. While Marshall's results cannot be questioned, there have been times during his career that his motivations can and should be.
"Every game I go out there playing to give it my all because of trying to achieve my goals. For me not to be out there probably hurts me more than anybody else. I have a lot of things that I want to achieve, a lot of things that I want to do, and it’s not just for this game. It’s every game that I’ve played in this year."
That says a lot to me about Marshall's motivations.
It is impossible for the training or coaching staff to tell how injured a player is, especially with a hamstring injury. Marshall underwent a MRI, which came back negative. To McDaniels, this means Marshall should be able to play - everyone is hurt this time of year - and other guys are playing through it. To Marshall, if he can't go at 100% he'd rather not go. As noted above, he's done this before.
There is a difference between being 'hurt' and being 'injured'.
I won't question Marshall's toughness - he played with a torn hip in 2008 - but I have and will question Marshall's motivations - and how he follows them.
The troubling part, for me, was the fact it went public. It is a slippery slope when a coach begins to question the injury status of his players. There is a level of trust - coaches trust that their players will give all they can until they can't, until it becomes detrimental to the team.
Trust, however, is an issue with Marshall, both his trust in the organization and the organization's trust in him.
It is hard to say how this will end, but I will say this - losing is unacceptable in the NFL. You play to win the game and all that. The job of the Head Coach is to find 53 men that all want team success over personal success. After all, if a team is successful, the personal accolades will follow. We know Josh McDaniels, coming from New England, is Team-First - perhaps to a fault.
The Denver Broncos, before all is said and done, will be team-first - with or without Brandon Marshall.