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Thursday, March 15, 2012
Bears unmoved by latest Marshall incident

By Kevin Seifert

Hang with me for a second here. Imagine the Chicago Bears' pursuit of receiver Brandon Marshall as a shopping excursion for a speedy sports car.

You've read the reviews, which include a long history of high performance and extensive maintenance. You're hemming and hawing. You figure you're a great driver, never had an accident, and feel relatively immune toward the chances the car will break down on you. The dealer offers one final test drive. As you careen around the final corner into the lot, laughing the whole way, the transmission drops to the ground.

What do you do? Write it off as a random and unpredictable incident? Or do you connect it with the documented history of this model and head to the minivan dealer?

Brandon Marshall
Brandon Marshall has a checkered past, but that didn't stop Chicago from acquiring the talented WR.
In many ways, that's the decision the Bears faced early this week when they learned Marshall -- whom they had already researched extensively and planned to acquire via trade -- had been present for a violent incident outside a New York City nightclub. According to a police complaint, a woman is accusing Marshall of punching her in the left eye. Marshall's attorney said he was not involved.

The Bears went ahead with the deal. Speaking extensively about it for the first time Thursday, general manager Phil Emery said: "We've done our work, we've done our research and we'll monitor it to its conclusions."

Coach Lovie Smith said, "I am aware, I think, of everything that happened in New York." He added that you really can't base anything on "allegations."

After listening to a 45-minute conference call with Emery and Smith, I got the clear sense they did not consider Sunday's incident a warning sign, let alone a reason to scuttle the deal. Emery said he had long been impressed by Marshall's acknowledgement in August 2011 that he suffers from borderline personality disorder, and that "it tells me a lot about his courage … and makes a big statement to me about the person he wants to be."

Indeed, Marshall had a relatively quiet seven months off the field after announcing the disorder. If Sunday's allegations are false, the Bears can make a reasonable argument that Marshall is on a path toward personal growth. But I can only assume they know more than we do about it. Otherwise, I can't imagine they would have acquired a player with a history as long as Marshall's if there was even a question about whether he is still hitting women.

Under those circumstances, the Bears would have traded for a player who faces a long NFL suspension and thus be unavailable to provide a return. At worst, they would have demonstrated a brazen lack of sensitivity toward an ongoing series of despicable behavior. As the "Outside the Lines" video in this post describes, Marshall's history included seven cases of domestic violence by 2009. He had an eighth incident with his current wife in April 2011.

Emery said the Bears will provide an experienced and structured environment with a built-in support structure for Marshall. That might help Marshall's assimilation from a football perspective, but there's nothing that Jay Cutler or Brian Urlacher or Mike Tice or anyone else can do to prevent Marshall from hitting a woman. Marshall himself is the only one who can get control of that.

The Bears appear to think that process has already begun. They better hope so. They got a rare gift this week: A last-minute addition to the large dossier on a previously troubled potential employee. They chose not to act it on it. They bought the sports car anyway. They better be right.