Brandon Marshall took part in Seahawks organized team activities Wednesday along the shores of Lake Washington, not far from where a seaplane once flew him to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center when he was being recruited as a coveted restricted free agent back in 2010.
Eight years later, Marshall knows full well that things have changed a bit since his last visit to Seahawks headquarters. The receiver is now 34 years old, and as was made evident by the fact that he was available to be signed by Seattle in late May, he is no longer a hot commodity in free agency. But despite his age, as well as the ankle injury that limited him to five games with the Giants last season, the six-time Pro-Bowler is ready to prove he still has plenty to offer the Seahawks as he prepares for this 13th year in the NFL.
"I think the sentiment around the league is that I'm done, and I get it," Marshall said. "When you get on the other side of 30 and your production slips and you have a big injury, people just count you out. So it was an interesting process, it was a humbling process, to say the least. There were some really tough days that I had to push through, mentally and physically. So for this to the opportunity to come to, you can't ask for a better situation. You've got probably a Top 3 quarterback, you've got one of the best franchises, you've got a young nucleus, guys who are hungry and ready to compete. That's rare nowadays. You've got guys who come into the league with a sense of entitlement, come into the league looking for the fame first instead of putting in the work. So it's good to see this organization from afar how they do things, and now being here seeing these young guys just on point. Sitting in the meetings today, my first day in meetings, everybody was focused, it was all about football, and that's rare nowadays. So I'm excited to get out there and do my part.
"Definitely I used a lot of things for motivation, a lot of things. A lot of guys will get up there and say they don't read the headlines, but I'm a guy who understands the environment. It's humbling. I'm excited."
Marshall is coming to Seattle not as sure-thing to start, or even to be on the team come September, but rather as a veteran who needs to prove himself to a new team. And despite being the owner of eight 1,000-yard seasons and six 100-reception campaigns—including a 109-catch, 1,502-yard, 14-touchdown season with the Jets in 2015—Marshall is comfortable with having to come in and prove himself to a new team.
"The cool thing about my career is that I've never really been in a system where they said, 'You're the No 1. Guy,'" he said. "I've always prided myself on being the No. 1 tandem, the No. 1 receiving corps. When I made the switch from running back to receiver when I was young, my uncle pulled me to the side and said, 'You're only going to be as good as the receiver on the other side.'… I think the only way to have an effective offense that produces consistently is when everyone just plays their role and everyone's unselfish. So whatever your role is on that play, you've got to execute.
"It's not about how many balls I catch, it's about how many wins I have, at the end of the day."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who has had his eye on Marshall since unsuccessfully recruiting him back in 2010, said it's far too soon to know what kind of role Marshall could have with Seattle, but the receiver's history indicates he is player who could help the team.
"The obvious is that he's a big receiver, he's a physical guy, he works well in close areas, working off of defenders and all of that," Carroll said. "The fact that he has been a go-to guy in his past, there's those kinds of thoughts out there. We'll see what happens, I don't know. We'll see how he fits in. Really, he's like the rest of the guys, he's got to battle for every step of the way, and he knows that. I was very emphatic about how this was going to work out, and he was fired up about it and ready to go."
One way Marshall is not like the rest of the guys, however, is in his size. At 6-foot-5, 232 pounds, Marshall is bigger than most of Seattle's receivers, and in particular its top two returning pass-catchers, Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. While those two have a ton to offer, Carroll likes the idea of adding an element of size to that group.
"If you go back and look at my history, I've always liked having a big guy," Carroll said. "We've always been in search of that guy, but they're hard to find, there aren't many guys like that. Again, we'll see how it works out, but yeah, I like that he brings a different format. You look at Doug and Tyler and David Moore and those guys, they're a little different stature. They have their own style that's unique and special and all that, so we'll see if it fits in."
Marshall said he is feeling good after not only surgery to repair the ankle injury he sustained last season, but one to fix a lingering toe injury that dates back to the 2015 season. He said the initial plan was to play through that toe injury until he retired to avoid the long recovery surgery would require, but that the ankle injury gave him the time to address both issues.
"I feel good, I don't feel great," Marshall said. "Obviously I've got a lot of catching up to do to get into some football shape… I'm excited about the process. I'm not where I want to be, not even close, but my goal is to be in midseason form come camp."
Marshall had no hesitation working out for the Seahawks on his free-agent visit earlier this month despite his stature as a six-time Pro-Bowler, and while that workout didn't show all he could do, he was proud of how it went considering how long he has been sidelined by the two surgeries.
"At this point, a lot of guys would say 'I'm 34, I'm established, why do I have to work out?'" Marshall said. "I think my workout was good, it wasn't great, because of where I was in my rehab process, but I was proud of it. Three weeks before that workout was first time I was able to even get on a field and run full routes pain-free."
The workout and meeting with Seattle went so well, in fact, that Marshall purchased some Seahawks gear at Sea-Tac airport before flying home, confident that he would be back to sign a contract at some point. On Tuesday, Marshall put on a green No. 12 jersey to pose for a few Instagram posts announcing the next stop in his impressive career.
"Right after my workout, in the airport I went in and bought a couple things—a shirt, some socks—because I knew that moment was going to happen," he said. "I felt good about the workout."
And now that Marshall has found a new home, he's ready to prove that, at 34 and coming off of a significant injury, he still has plenty to offer to the Seahawks.
"I'm going to be the same guy I've always been, and I'm going to be better," he said. "My goal is to be more consistent in the things that I'm great at. I read this book a long time ago, Good to Great by Jim Collins, one of the most prominent business leaders and writers out there, and the hedgehog concept: what is it that you're the best in the world at? For me, I'm a big guy, really physical, my game is really built off of that, and I want to do that plus more. I want to be more consistent at the thing that I'm great at—big-body guy, getting in and out of my breaks, being consistent, moving the chains, getting in the red zone, you've got to be unstoppable down there. I pride myself on that. When I got in the league, I was just doing what I was told, then when I got to Miami they killed me, because I only had like three touchdowns. They paid me all this money and I had three touchdowns. That was the first time that I realized that you've got to score touchdowns in this league, so I really broke down the red zone, and since then, things have taken off. I'm ready to get that part of my game on track. The last two years have been down for me, so I'm excited to get back in the red zone and do that. I'm excited about where I'm at right now, physically and mentally. I've just got to get better."
Take a look back at photos of 12-year NFL veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall, a six-time Pro Bowler who signed with the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday.