Patrick Mannelly is a 6-foot-5-inch, 15-year NFL veteran who has seen it all. Yet ask the Bears long snapper to pick one offensive teammate he is most excited to watch, and he starts giggling like a 5-foot-6-inch Bears junkie who spends Sundays on a couch with a beer and a laptop, just like the rest of us.
"That's easy," he says immediately. "Brandon Marshall." Mannelly is a massive man—if you were at a restaurant and he walked in, all heads would turn. Except, of course, if Marshall had walked in 10 minutes earlier.
"It's just everything. He's a complete receiver. I've never played with a receiver that has the ability with everything he can do. It's that simple, seriously," he says with a laugh, as if to say, Are you seriously asking me this question? You have eyes, don't you? I mean, just LOOK at him.
Again and again Marshall's teammates regress to slobbering fan boys when asked the question. Defensive lineman Henry Melton nearly swoons singing Marshall's praises. Punter Adam Podlesh grins while speaking about Marshall's training camp. Defensive backs Craig Steltz and Major Wright say he's made them better. Not the team, them.
"He's just a freak," linebacker Blake Costanzo says of Marshall, laughing. "We got a lot of freaks on this team that are, I like to joke, not humans. It's fun to see the not-human guys perform."
There are lots of reasons to be excited about the 2012 Bears, not-human or otherwise. Devin Hester's return chops are matched by Eric Weems. Stephen Paea, arguably the team's fourth-best defensive lineman, once benched 225 pounds 49 times. The rookies have won the respect of the veterans. Their backup quarterback has started 70 NFL games.
But none impresses like Marshall, whose six-year NFL career would place him first in Bears history in receptions (494), first in receiving yards (6,247) and fourth in touchdown catches (34).
Or, as cornerback D.J. Moore puts it, "We never had a receiver like him."
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. Say hey @ReadJack.
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