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Pompei: Bears’ Marshall winning over teammates’ hearts and minds

(MCT) — When I asked Brandon Marshall during training camp about how reliable his hands were, given the number of drops he had in his career, he said, “It won’t be a problem.”

He was right.

It hasn’t been a problem.

Neither has hurting the quarterback.

Neither has having his own agenda.

Neither has moodiness.

Marshall has been much more solution than problem this season.

He has been a better package for the Bears than he ever was for the Dolphins or Broncos.

In fact, if coach Lovie Smith were naming captains today, he would do well to give Marshall a “C” on his jersey. He has been that kind of presence.

Marshall came to the Bears with a reputation as a guy who could tear a locker room apart. Instead, he has built the locker room up.

The Bears started practicing harder the day he walked onto the field.

When Marshall hosted a charity bowling event to benefit borderline personality disorder on Oct. 24, Jay Cutler, Devin Hester and Brian Urlacher were among the players who showed up to support him.

Those three players run in different circles and live in different worlds, so that tells you something about how he has cut across boundaries in the locker room.

The receivers follow Marshall around like ducklings. He is the quarterback’s guy. He bridges gaps throughout the team. The coaches love him.

Shortly after he arrived, he talked up the sometimes sensitive Hester, saying he never has seen a receiver who can run routes like him. He said Hester could be a Pro Bowl receiver.

Marshall has marveled at defensive teammates, referring to them as future Hall of Famers. And he has let Cutler know he is loved even when Cutler is scraping mess off the bottom of his shoes.

Marshall is the perfect receiver for Cutler, beyond catching a lot of passes.

He is perfect for Cutler because he can take Cutler’s grief and throw it back at him, and because he doesn’t take offense at Cutler’s demanding nature and sometimes insensitive critiques. Not every player is like that.

Cutler and Marshall have had disagreements during the closed portion of practices. They argue it out and it’s over. No hurt feelings, no bruised egos.

This is not the same player Cutler played with in Denver in 2006-08. Cutler said Marshall is different “in a multitude of ways.” Most of it has sprung from Marshall’s newfound consistency.

“In Denver, you didn’t know ... what you were going to get in practice or what you were going to get during the games,” Cutler said. “You knew he would usually show up for games but getting him to the game was challenging. He’s a lot easier to work with (now).”

Marshall is more prepared to succeed on a week-in, week-out basis than he ever has been.

Marshall is more physically prepared because he takes better care of his body, and more mentally prepared because he studies the game more.

“Behind the scenes, I don’t think people realize how smart and gifted he is mentally within the game of football,” Cutler said. “He knows my reads. He can call the plays in the huddle. He knows where everybody lines up. He could play Y. He could play F for us. He can play Z. He is extremely smart and his ability to adjust in the middle of routes depending on coverages is extraordinary.”

He didn’t get this way via happenstance. He did it the old-fashioned way — working hard.

At 28, it seemingly has all come together for Marshall. Beast plus sage equals all pro.

Will he eventually revert to old Brandon? Nobody knows. And for now, nobody cares.

We caught another glimpse of him as a team builder Wednesday. He was soliciting media help to try to give Cutler a nickname. “Closer,” or “Ace,” he suggested.

“Jay’s one of those guys who has that clutch gene,” Marshall said. “You hear guys talking about it and some believe in it, some don’t. But Jay has it.”

Marshall makes the Bears believe in themselves because of how he plays and what he says.

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