LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Brandon Marshall believes the transformation of his personal life kicked off just before the Chicago Bears traded for him in March 2012, but on Thursday he called the transaction "life-saving and career-saving" when discussing a recently signed three-year contract extension worth $23 million guaranteed.
"I don't think I'd be sitting in this position talking about an extension [if not for the trade to Chicago]," Marshall said. "I probably wouldn't even be having the success that I was having on the field in that environment [in Miami]. It wasn't right for me."
While the locker-room culture of the Miami Dolphins has been documented exhaustively over the past year, Marshall lauding the move to Chicago seemed more about overcoming personal struggles than playing with that particular franchise. Marshall joined the Bears after four seasons in Denver (2006-09) and two in Miami (2010-11) with a past steeped in volatility on and off the field.
Marshall disclosed in 2011 that he had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Since then, he has been an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness. Marshall appeared live on ABC's "The View" to announce his new deal and said he would be donating $1 million of the contract to mental health causes.
Marshall and the Bears started discussing the new contract in March, but the receiver admitted he wanted a new deal before the 2013 season. At the time, general manager Phil Emery told Marshall there was a game plan and that he was a part of it but the club couldn't consummate the deal immediately.
"I wanted a contract last year, and he told me, 'Brandon, we couldn't do it,'" Marshall said.
Despite that news, Marshall kept quiet and played, producing 100 receptions to become the first player in franchise history to produce back-to-back 100-catch seasons. Over the course of that season, Alshon Jeffery emerged to lead the team in receiving yards (1,421). Marshall said the 2013 season marked the first time in his career "that I wasn't selfish."
That carried over into negotiations for the new contract. Although Marshall "would love to be the highest-paid receiver in the league," he recognized during negotiations that his piece of the salary-cap pie was just one of many, as the team also needed to allocate resources to other players on offense.
"We're able to have guys like [Jermon] Bushrod. We're able to have Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett. We have these guys that mean so much to this offense and the success to this team," Marshall said. "It's one of those things you really have to sit back and ask yourself what is it really about. That was the biggest thing during negotiations."
Emery called Marshall "a great teammate" and lauded the receiver's personal growth.
"This is a man that's grown every day," Emery said. "Every time we have a conversation and engage each other, I just see growth as a person. I see a very thoughtful, engaging, giving person, somebody that reaches out to others. And through reaching out to others, [he] has grown himself. We're very proud he's continued to remain a Bear and looking forward to the now and into the future."
Marshall anticipates putting together a breakout year in 2014 and joked that upon revealing that to Jay Cutler, the quarterback quipped, "Dude, you had seven of them."
Coming off a 2013 season in which the Bears set several franchise records on offense, Marshall expects even more in 2014.
"I think we have a special group. We work hard. Their approach to practice to their approach to the film room, it's amazing, and I think if we continue to do that, we'll continue to grow. We have a tremendous upside, but again, we have to prove it," Marshall said. "What we did last year was really tough. You bring in a new coach with a really sophisticated offense. You've got Jay, he's been in different offenses almost every other year. It's (a) tough transition. So for us to make that big of leap last year says a lot about our coaching staff and our players. This year, I think that's something to build off, and we can possibly even be better."