CHICAGO – After hearing more than a dozen questions Thursday about talented but troubled wide receiver Brandon Marshall, Bears coach Lovie Smith captured his team’s No. 1 priority in five simple words.
“We’re trying to win games,” Smith said.
Until that happens, questions will persist.
The Bears’ top personnel team of Smith and general manager Phil Emery defended their decision to acquire Marshall via trade this week less than 48 hours after he allegedly punched a woman in the face at a New York nightclub. The pair spoke for about 45 minutes on a conference call in advance of today’s news conference at Halas Hall, where Marshall and backup quarterback Jason Campbell will be introduced.
As Marshall meets with reporters today, an NFL investigation will continue.
League officials contacted the Bears to let them know they are looking into the allegations against Marshall, who has a history of alleged violence against women. Marshall could face a suspension if he is found in violation of the league’s personal conduct policy, which is especially harsh on repeat offenders.
Regardless of what police and the NFL decide, the Bears’ decision is final.
Emery said franchise quarterback Jay Cutler, who played with Marshall for three seasons in Denver and remained friends with him in the years that followed, would provide guidance for Marshall on and off of the field. Emery said Smith was “the right coach for this situation” because Marshall needed consistency, while position coaches such as Jeremy Bates and Darryl Drake also would provide support.
Stability will be important for Marshall, who acknowledged in July that he has borderline personality disorder. People with the condition may have long-term patterns of unstable or turbulent emotions, which can lead to impulsive behavior and chaotic relationships, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Emery said he and the organization were willing to help as much as possible.
“His public statements in this past year has shown us a lot about who he is, and who he wants to be, and how he wants to improve as a person and a player,” said Emery, who had ownership’s support in making the trade. “His public acknowledgment of his disorder tells me a lot about his courage and the type of person he is.”
But it’s the type of player that Marshall is that led to the Bears’ big trade. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound player has posted five consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, while the Bears have not had a 1,000-yard receiver since Marty Booker in 2002.
“The performance on the field reveals a person’s football character in terms of his passion, his toughness, his competitiveness,” Emery said. “As we know, Brandon is one of the top players in the NFL. That speaks volumes about his football character.”
More to come: Emery said he would continue to scour the free-agent market for possible upgrades. In addition to acquiring Marshall, the Bears signed or re-signed six players – Campbell, Tim Jennings, Blake Costanzo, Eric Weems, Kellen Davis and Josh McCown – in the first three days of the NFL’s signing period.
“It’s hit that point of take a breath, sit back and see who has not been signed, re-evaluate what you have, and move forward from there,” Emery said. “I would say don’t be surprised that we add a few more players here in the next few days, and don’t be surprised if we don’t. Because after we take that breath, we may realize that it’s best to start focusing on the draft to meet our needs.”
The Bears likely will add an offensive lineman or two through free agency or the draft to provide extra support for Cutler, Emery said. Without naming any player, he referenced a report that the Bears had met with free agent guard Anthony Herrera.
Herrera, 31, started 80 games in eight seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.
“We’ve brought in one offensive guard so far to take a look at,” Emery said. “There will be others, and we’ll look very hard at the draft in relationship to [the line].”
Knox's recovery uncertain: Smith was asked whether he expected wide receiver Johnny Knox to be healthy enough to participate in offseason workouts or training camp.
“I wish I could predict that,” Smith said.
Knox required surgery to stabilize a vertebra in his lower back after suffering a violent hit in Week 15 against the Seattle Seahawks that bent him backward.
“Every day as you see him rehabbing, you get more and more confidence for him to recover from serious injury,” Smith said. “That’s all I know. He’s come a long ways and he has a long ways to go, but I wouldn’t doubt anything that he can possibly do.”