BOURBONNAIS – Bears receiver Brandon Marshall lined up on the far left side of the field Thursday and waited for the snap.
It was the first day of training camp at Olivet Nazarene University and Marshall was eager to impress his new coaches, teammates and fans. Never had Bears fans seen a receiver quite like Marshall, who arrived via trade in March and immediately became Jay Cutler’s top target.
But as Day 1 showed, even Pro Bowl players need practice.
At the snap, Marshall sprinted toward cornerback Charles Tillman, planted his right foot and cut toward the sideline. Cutler took a five-step drop and fired a spiral toward the spot where Marshall was headed.
One problem. Either Cutler’s throw was too low, or Marshall was too deep in his route. Marshall reached toward the ground and touched the ball with both hands, but he could not pluck it from shoe level for a reception.
It was only one play. Forty-four days remain until the regular season opener. And Marshall made several good catches to go with a few drops.
But perfecting a small detail now could lead to big wins later.
Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said Marshall could do better.
“We can’t drop the football,” Drake said. “I expect him to make those non-routine catches, and he expects to make them. I’m going to be tough on him when he doesn’t, and he knows that, and he welcomes that. …
“The only thing I don’t want it to do is get him frustrated, because Peanut’s going to win some of those battles. Now, I don’t tell Brandon that. He’s got to win every battle, and I expect him to win every battle. But at the same time, I’ve got a lot of respect for [No.] 33.”
Marshall showed no signs of frustration on the first day of camp. Instead, he spoke glowingly about joining a team where players genuinely cared about each other, chatting casually about each others’ wives and children and enjoying board-game battles in the dorms.
For the second consecutive day, Marshall arrived to lunch at the ONU cafeteria in lockstep with Cutler. He said the pair’s strong chemistry off the field helped produce positive results on the field, as it did from 2006-08 when they were star teammates on the Denver Broncos.
“You can put a good quarterback and a good receiver together, but it’s not always going to mesh,” Marshall said. “Sometimes, you don’t see the field the same way or see things off the field the same way. Jay and I, I don’t know why, but we see things the same way.”
Cutler said he and Marshall could be even better this time around.
“I think we’re both a little bit smarter football wise,” Cutler said. “We’ve both been in some different systems. We know what we dislike and what we like a little bit more.
“Watching film from Denver, it seems like we were just running around at times, just kind of going off of the cuff. I think Brandon is a much more polished receiver, which makes it fun for me.”
The duo might cringe at a few bad throws and ugly drops from Thursday’s practice, but they will do so with the knowledge that plenty of time remains to fix their mistakes. If one of them needs to talk to the other, all he has to do is take a few steps and knock on a door.
“It’s just natural,” Marshall said. “Our rooms are right next to each other. I think we’re really focused and we understand how we need each other. We need each and every guy on offense and defense.
“It’s a sense of family here. We’re just excited about the opportunity.”