DENVER (CBS4) – Practice may not always make perfect. But it turned Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall into pretty darn good.
Good enough to start in place of Danny Trevathan, who is sidelined for six to eight weeks with a knee injury to begin the season. Good enough to gain the trust of the team’s coaches to call defensive plays.
Marshall toiled much of his NFL career on the practice squad — where he learned what’s expected of players who want to start on Sunday.
“I really felt that they cared,” he said about the Broncos’ tutelage while he was on the practice team. “I felt they really wanted me to improve, to get better. They were actually evaluating me while I was on the practice squad. I got better on this practice squad.”
He played in one game for the Broncos in 2013 and five for Jacksonville in his rookie season in 2012. Despite limited playing time, he gained significant experience competing against Peyton Manning and the first-team offense.
Once Trevathan returns, Marshall will likely return to his back-up duties. But at least he’s made the 53-man roster and although he’ll probably see diminished playing time eventually, he’s won trust.
Marshall will call plays because he’s fast enough and can cover well enough to play all three defensive downs.
“I’m glad they entrusted me in that position, and I look forward to it,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean it was easy from the start. The defensive play-caller has to perform athletically and keep his 10 other teammate organized.
“It’s difficult. The first day of practice, I was tired because you have to make sure everybody is lined up, get the call and then line up yourself, look at the formation. It’s crazy. I enjoy the challenge, and it’s fun actually,” he said.
He’s part of a rejiggered starting defense that, in Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts, will see just three players who started against Seattle in the Super Bowl loss.
“I’m not going to say it’s unheard of because they try to find the right formula to try to get over the hump and win the championship,” Marshall said. “But it’s definitely different considering the talent we have. I’m just glad to be in the mix.”
As impressive a performance as Marshall turned in this preseason, he knows how quickly fortunes change.
The Broncos waived safety Duke Ihenacho, a starter on last year’s team. He was claimed off the waiver wire by Washington. Marshall met with Ihenacho at his house after he received the news.
Marshall told him: “Don’t worry. I’ve been through this. Everything is going to be fine. Everything happens for a reason.” Marshall said he knew Ihenacho would be claimed quickly.
“Duke’s a great player,” he said. “I’m just happy to see him pick up and move on and still be on the 53.”
Practice-squad pay is relatively terrible, too. Just how much is it?
“Not enough,” he deadpanned. “Not as much as you get if you’re on the active roster.”
It’s $50,000 a year.
“It’s still good money,” he said, “but when you look at other guys’ checks, it’s depressing.”