LAKE FOREST, Ill. - A game-changer.
That's what Brandon Marshall is for the Chicago Bears.
One of only five players to post 1,000-yard receiving seasons with three different teams, Marshall possesses special abilities along with a physical presence that is renowned throughout the NFL.
"The physicality," Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller said, "he brings it every time he has the ball. He takes it to the DBs or to the linebackers, wanting to take it upfield and get the yards after the catch."
Marshall made his presence felt with a spectacular one-handed catch in last Sunday's 28-20 win at San Francisco. With the Bears trailing 17-0 late in the first half, he leaped up and hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass with his right hand. It was the first of his three TD catches on the night.
"The play he made really sparked us," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "That was an exceptional play on any field at any time."
Marshall's simple assessment: "When it was in the air, I just threw my hand up there and it stuck."
The play typified the attitude the once-volatile Marshall -- who held a 40-minute news conference on Thursday to dispute ESPN's portrayal of him in a domestic violence case six years ago and went on to defend commissioner Roger Goodell before discussing how Marshall had been beaten as a child by his grandmother -- has demonstrated from Day 1 with Chicago.
Fuller, a rookie first-round pick who intercepted Colin Kaepernick twice last week, said Marshall's physical style and never-say-die approach also are apparent in the way the receiver prepares.
"It's definitely his size but most importantly his competitiveness," Fuller said. "He's always out there working hard, trying to go up there and get every ball."
On Thursday, Marshall showed reporters documents and transcripts from his 2009 trial on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. He was acquitted in the case brought by a former girlfriend from a relationship that ended before the beginning of his NFL career.
He said he sought treatment after being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and has become the NFL's biggest advocate for awareness of mental illness.
Marshall's two years with Miami as a division rival left an impression on the Jets as he topped 100 yards twice in four games against Rex Ryan's team.
"Brandon Marshall, unfortunately I had to go against this guy a long time," Ryan said. "He is right there with all the best receivers in the game. He uses his big body. He can go deep on you, run routes, inside, outside."
During those Dolphins seasons, an unhappy Marshall was forced to work with quarterbacks such as Matt Moore and Chad Henne. It's been a different story since he was reunited in Chicago with his former Denver quarterback, Jay Cutler. They're part of a high-powered offense installed by Trestman that is quite a departure for a franchise known for Gale Sayers and Walter Payton.
The 6-4, 230-pound Marshall has enjoyed his two best seasons with the Bears and already has vaulted into the club's top 10 for receiving touchdowns with 27.
Marshall has likened his relationship with Cutler to a marriage, and that connection was evident last Sunday night when Cutler oddly chose to pet Marshall's suit as the pair sat side by side at the podium.
Cutler also defended his friend after Marshall's 40-minute speech on domestic violence.
That closeness allows them to improvise unlike any other quarterback-receiver tandem in the league. Marshall is quick to alert his quarterback to any favorable matchups should a team change coverages, as the Jets are known to do. Cutler is eager to use such feedback to get the ball to his favorite target.
"The way that the rules are structured now, you got a lot of advantages for the offense," Cutler said. "So if we see that kind of stuff, we're making checks, we're going there right away."
Marshall now gets a chance to add to a prime-time highlight reel that includes a pair of 100-yard performances last season in Monday night wins over the Packers and Cowboys. Like last week, Marshall has been forced to miss practice with an ankle problem. But he promised he would be ready on game day, and he was.
After all, you can't be a game-changer if you're not in the game.