For the majority of what would be Brandon Marshall's final season with the Denver Broncos, the talented linebacker dealt with ongoing knee pain, caused by a bone bruise. The pain originally flared up during the Broncos Week 2 battle with the Silver and Black, and was originally diagnosed as tendinitis. The 29 year old managed to play through the pain for 11 games, but it limited him all season long and took longer than expected to heal.
"It's taken a long time to get right but I'm feeling a lot better right now, so I'm just happy to be out here with my guys," Marshall told the media following practice Monday.
One of the newest members of the Silver and Black missed the majority of OTAs because of his knee, and the coaching staff wanted to be cautious with his recovery. Easing him back into his reps has been a slow process, but Marshall says he's taking better care of his body now than ever before.
"Yeah I mean, honestly, coming to Oakland has been a blessing in disguise for me because they've taught me how to be a pro, I guess in the area of taking care of my body," he said. "So, I'm extremely happy to be here. [Athletic training] Rod [Martin] has been great, the head trainer, he works with me all the time so I'm staying on top my body even when I'm feeling good because I don't want to get a setback. I can't afford one."
Marshall's right, he can't afford to be sidelined any longer because this is a crucial time of the year for him to build chemistry with the defense and establish a deeper understanding of defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's system. The level of experience and skill Marshall brings to the defense is partially why the Broncos defense was so stout for so many years. The Raiders hope to get that same level of production out of the University of Nevada Reno product.
The Raiders were back in pads Monday as they took the field for another day of practice at the Raiders Napa Valley Training Complex.
"He didn't get a lot of reps in spring. Obviously, he was rehabbing, but he's a guy who came in there and didn't make a lot of mistakes for the first couple days," Guenther said during his media availability. "He understands. He's kind of played in that position with some other teams and he's a very good cover guy, he's got good feet, he's physical, and he can run. So, he can match up with some of these backs and tight ends that we have in our division.
Guenther continued. "I mean, it's a matchup league and with the tight ends and the backs that we have, and on every team now, you've got to be able to cover those guys. So he's a guy that you know, when he was available to us, we had to make sure he was healthy to go and we took the smart path and just let him sit out in the spring and get him healthy. In the past he's only gone two days and he took a day off and today, it was his third day, and he said he felt good. So, that's a positive thing."
Overshadowed by the likes of Von Miller and the No Fly Zone, which featured Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, Marshall was an integral piece of the Broncos most-dominant unit. During his time with the team, he totaled 423 tackles, 6.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, 21 passes defensed, and one touchdown while starting in 63 games.
Paired alongside Vontaze Burfict and Tahir Whitehead, the Raiders have the makings of its best linebacker unit in ages, and Marshall is ecstatic about the opportunity to work with his fellow vets.
"Vontaze, people don't really speak about his intelligence, football intelligence," Marshall said. "He has to be one of the smartest football players I've played with. He's been in this defense his whole career and he knows the in's and out's, and I come and ask him questions. I talk to him. He's played the WILL linebacker position, so I lean on him a lot right now and in this learning phase that I'm in it's great to have a veteran guy like him to lean on."
At this juncture, Marshall seems to have a good grasp and understanding of Guenther's material despite having limited reps thus far. The biggest key to Marshall's play going forward will hinge on his health, but if he's able to keep his body right I think he can help this defense take a big leap forward.