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Marshall deserves credit for growth

Posted May 20, 2014

Senior writer Larry Mayer discusses Brandon Marshall's transformation, candidates for the return specialist positions and if all Bears rookies can participate in the offseason program.

Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of email questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com

Brandon Marshall seems like a changed man after coming to Chicago. Is it because of Jay Cutler, the Bears' culture or something else?

From Eric G. on Twitter

I'm sure that the culture of the Bears' locker room, which includes Jay Cutler's presence and leadership, has helped Brandon Marshall. But I feel that the Pro Bowl receiver deserves 99 percent of the credit for his excellent performance on the field and his transformation off of it. After being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Marshall not only proactively sought treatment but created a foundation to raise awareness about mental illness and advocate for those suffering from it. In terms of football, he has become one of the main leaders on the Bears, taking young receivers under his wing and welcoming several of his teammates to his home in Florida, where they worked out together and did team-bonding activities such as paintballing, pottery and go-cart racing. Like I said, Marshall should be commended for the type of person he has become on and off the field.

Who are the Bears' potential kickoff and punt returners for this season?

From Phillip R. on Twitter

I would say that the leading contenders are Eric Weems, Domenik Hixon, Michael Ford, Josh Morgan and Chris Williams with Weems getting the first opportunity. Weems was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2010 when he was with the Falcons after returning three kicks for touchdowns. Hixon also has experience, while Ford finished second in the SEC in kickoff returns in 2012. Williams, a small but explosive receiver, may be the most intriguing candidate. He excelled as a return specialist in the CFL and possesses good speed and vision. It should be fun to watch the competition in the preseason.

Are the players the Bears drafted from Pac-12 schools eligible for OTAs or will they have to sit out like Kyle Long did last year?

From James H. on Twitter

All of the Bears draft picks, even the ones from Pac-12 schools, are permitted to participate in the offseason program, including the OTAs. For those who don't know, 2013 first-round pick Kyle Long was not able to take part last year because his class at Oregon didn't graduate until late in the spring. The fact that he didn't practice until training camp (except for rookie minicamp) makes his emergence into a Pro Bowler even more impressive.

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