Marshall leaving tacklers, trouble behind

Updated: September 25, 2008, 5:47 PM ET
Associated Press

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- So far, Brandon Marshall is fulfilling his vow to leave both tacklers and trouble behind.

After an offseason filled with headlines over domestic disputes, a freak accident that required emergency arm surgery, criticism from his quarterback and visits to the commissioner's office, the Denver Broncos' star receiver is making his noise on the football field. And making nice off it.

Sitting out the opener for violating the league's code of conduct might just have been the best thing to happen to him. He spent his forced hiatus reflecting on his career and volunteering at an after-school, anti-gang program in Denver.

"I have no regrets at all, because if I didn't go through what I went through, I wouldn't be the man I am today and the man I'm going to be in the future," Marshall said. "We make mistakes and all you've got to do is learn from them and grow, and sometimes those mistakes make you a stronger person. That's exactly what it's made me -- much wiser."

Marshall had his three-game suspension reduced to one game and two paychecks on appeal, and he returned with a vengeance, showing his boast to "break all the receiving records" this season might not be as farfetched as it sounds.

It's early, but at his current pace, Marshall would amass 180 receptions for 2,407 yards and 15 TDs. That's 37 more catches and 559 more yards than any receiver in NFL history.

Probably not going to happen.

But consider this: teams daring to double-cover him risk leaving Tony Scheffler, Brandon Stokley and Eddie Royal open for big gains themselves. Even when Marshall is blanketed, Jay Cutler won't shy away from trying to fit frozen-rope passes into itty-bitty spaces, something that's become the duo's trademark.

Marshall, a fourth-round draft pick out of Central Florida in 2005 originally projected as a tight end in the NFL, blossomed into the Broncos' best receiver with a breakout 102-catch season last year.

This season, he's using his superior strength and size as much as his speed, twisting out of tackles, beating press coverage and adding a downfield dimension to his already impressive game.

"I have always been a finesse type of guy, always trying to make it look good, and sometimes that is not always the best way," Marshall said. "Sometimes you just have to get dirty a little bit and get physical. I think being able to mix it up a bit with the finesse game and the physical game has really helped me a lot this year."

It's a devastating mix.

"I wouldn't trade him for anybody in the league," coach Mike Shanahan said. "I don't think he has even scratched the surface with his big plays. I think as he gets more confidence, he is just going to get better and better, lowering his head and lowering his shoulder to run over those defensive backs.

"Here is a guy that is 6-foot-5, 230 pounds who knocked out two defensive ends and a safety last year in three consecutive games. He is a very physical guy and once he learns to turn up consistently like he did Sunday, he is going to make more plays."

After sitting out the team's opener at Oakland, Marshall hauled in a team-record 18 catches for 166 yards and a TD in a win over San Diego. He grabbed a half-dozen more for 155 yards and a score in a win over New Orleans.

His 18 receptions against the Chargers broke Rod Smith's team record of 14 and were two shy of Terrell Owens' single-game NFL record. His 24 catches marked the second most by a player through his first two games of a season, trailing only Andre Rison's 26 in 1994.

Marshall has some other numbers in his sights: Smith's team single-season records of 113 catches and 1,602 yards; Anthony Miller's 14 TD catches in a season; and Shannon Sharpe's single-game mark of 214 yards receiving.

By why stop with team records?

Marshall wants Marvin Harrison's NFL mark of 143 catches set in 2003, maybe Jerry Rice's 1,848 yards set in 1995, and why not Randy Moss's single-season record of 23 touchdowns he established just last season?

Right now, he's just pleased the Broncos are 3-0 after going 7-9 last season.

"Last year I had a great season. I had 102 catches and 1,300 yards and we lost. That really means nothing to me," Marshall said. "I want to be a guy not only to be in the record books, but also who has a Super Bowl ring like a Rod Smith, like a Jerry Rice. So, I want to be compared to those type of guys and I want to win."

Marshall said Thursday he has no lingering issues with his right forearm, which was sliced up when he fell into a television set in March while horsing around with his brother. It was that incident that led Cutler, fed up with all the drama surrounding his top target, to declare back in April: "He's not my favorite person right now."

"I wasn't going to go back and forth with him because he was right," Marshall said. "I took it as constructive criticism and now I'm excited about our future as an organization and my future as a person."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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