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Bears acknowledge truth about Marshall trade

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Dan Parr
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Posted March 15, 2012 @ 7:15 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

In his first major personnel acquisition as Bears general manager, Phil Emery filled a void his predecessor had failed to do during his time on the job.

Emery landed a true No. 1 wide receiver — one with plenty of baggage — giving QB Jay Cutler the weapon he had always lacked in Chicago. Emery did it despite knowing that his unofficial introduction to Chicago would be acquiring Brandon Marshall after Marshall was alleged to have hit a woman in an altercation outside a New York nightclub just two days before Emery sent two third-round picks to the Dolphins and put his still-malleable reputation on the line for the wide receiver.

"We have a great core of staff, coaches, players that someone like Brandon, who has a history of problems, which we acknowledge, that we feel we have the right fit for," Emery said Thursday in a teleconference as he explained why he was comfortable making the move.

There was some sugarcoating of the situation on Thursday. There's no doubt about that, but it's to be expected.

"I think Brandon, in terms of his public statements in this past year, is showing 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," Emery said. "His public acknowledgment of his disorder tells me a lot about his courage and the type of person he is."

Yes, discussing being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, as Marshall has done, is something to applaud, but it's Marshall's actions — not his words — that have always been most troubling.

The Bears weren't hiding from the fact that adding Marshall to their mix is a risk. There's no way for them to hide from it, although the risk is probably a more significant one than they acknowledged Thursday. It's well-known that Marshall has worn out his welcome with two different teams that were willing — desperate even — to trade him away even though he's one of the rarest talents in the league and still only 27 years old.

This was a move that begins to separate Emery, and the Bears, from Angelo, a man Emery worked for early in his career when both were with the Bears. Angelo acquired Cutler but never gave him the gift of an elite wide receiver.

Yet, as Emery and head coach Lovie Smith explained their decision to trade for Marshall despite his repeated run-ins with the law, it sounded an awful lot like what we had heard from Angelo over the years, when he would explain his philosophy on drafting and acquiring players.

Smith cut to the chase Thursday. He was honest about the Bears' motives here.

"We're trying to win games," he said. "I thought, as we look at what we were looking for in our No. 1 receiver, you wanted a big, physical guy that could catch balls and make plays in the passing game, but also as a blocker, and Brandon is an excellent blocker. We weighed all that. Felt good about him being a Bear, and that's exactly how we feel now."

Less than one year ago, what do you think Angelo's response was when he was asked about drafting a prospect with suspect character?

"We're not looking for halo players," Angelo said. "We're in a business to win football games."

The motives at Halas Hall haven't changed. The method? Perhaps, but we don't have to look back very far to know that the Bears didn't have to dramatically change their stance on what players to pick and which ones to stay away from when it came to deciding whether to take the risk of making Marshall their signature addition of the offseason.

The specifics as to what they knew about Marshall's alleged involvement in the fight outside the club in New York early Sunday morning are unclear. They, the league and the law-enforcement officials are still looking into the matter. It's too early to tell whether Marshall will be facing a suspension from commissioner Roger Goodell.

A lengthy one for Marshall would be devastating for the Bears, but they had to know it was possible when they made the trade.

"I think we all do some things that we're not necessarily happy about," Smith said. "It's been documented, some of the problems Brandon has had in the past. He has acknowledged those. We know about those. We still feel real good about where we are right now. I know there are allegations out there right now. You can't really go on those."

Apparently Smith can go on the suspicion that reuniting Marshall with Cutler and QB coach Jeremy Bates — his old friends from Denver — and introducing himself, WR coach Darryl Drake and the support staff at Halas Hall to Marshall will lead to a better outcome than the conclusion of Marshall's career with his previous two employers.

"When we were looking at bringing Brandon in, Phil wanted to know how I felt," Smith said. "Was I completely on board with Brandon coming here? The answer is yes.

"I understand, from the issues he's had in the past, that he would still work here with us."

This was a move about trying to win in 2012, when Smith's job could be on the line. Emery will not have the power to fire him until after the season.

It wasn't about making a splash. It wasn't about finding a high-character player. It wasn't about great public relations.

As for the consequences of the recent actions by Marshall and the Bears, we can only guess at this point.

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