NAPA – Brandon Marshall played a long time for the same team, beloved in Denver as a Broncos defensive fixture and pillar of the community. The interior linebacker was entrenched as a leader and was integral to their Super Bowl 50 run.
The NFL eventually turns all players into assets, and Marshall’s stock fell far enough that the option on his contract was easily declined. The axe came swift and clean, all part of this football business.
Marshall was neither surprised nor offended. A knee injury sapped his effectiveness in 2018, with his departure foreshadowed by an inability to reclaim his starting spot.
While pondering the next chapter of his career, Marshall was immediately attracted to the Raiders. He knew they were headed to his native Las Vegas in 2020, tempting him to accept a one-year, prove-it contract in Oakland that he'll try to parlay into a hometown engagement.
“I came in for my visit and they initially start talking about Vegas,” Marshall said after Monday’s practice. “They showed me the model of the stadium. They were selling me on Vegas and I was like, ‘Well, you don’t have to sell me because I’m already in.’ I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be part of a team that’s established a new culture around here, a new set of standards, so I think it’s going to be good.”
Marshall plans on being an integral part of this rebuild. He can flash a Super Bowl ring and talk about his athletic rags-to-riches rise, but performing well on the practice field amplifies his message.
That wasn’t possible this spring. The Raiders were cautious and kept him out of offseason practices, preferring to let him rehab his balky right knee back to full health.
Now he’s back practicing regularly, starting in the base defense and sub packages. He has done well early, looking to sustain performance long term. That’s when his message resonates.
“I like to lead by example. I want to show the guys how to do things, how to work, how to practice, but me being in the training room the whole time it’s kind of tough,” Marshall said. “Now that I’m on the field and I’m getting used to everybody, I’m getting used to playing and practicing, being a Raider. I’m just still trying to establish myself, as well as bring some young guys on, and I have a story that I think a lot of the young guys could take to.”
The Nevada-Reno alum was Jacksonville's fifth-round draft pick in 2012, but got cut after just one season. He signed with Denver’s practice squad in the summer of 2013, spent one season there and earned a starting spot the following year. His career truly launched from there, with four years as an established starter and respected piece of a ferocious Broncos defense.
Marshall is working toward a similar place with the Raiders, as both a mentor and steady producer. He understands that integration to a new team takes time.
His track record expedites that a bit.
“It has been great, you know, because he’s a vet, too,” new middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict said. “He’s been around just as long as me I believe, obviously just a different defense for him, but he’s a smart linebacker with great instincts.”
Marshall has practiced three straight days, the last in full pads, a good sign considering recent health issues. He’s working to maintain this health, even doing band work on his right knee during down times in practice. Staying on the field is key at this stage, especially after missing the spring. Marshall spent significant time watching last year’s Raiders defense and studying coordinator Paul Guenther’s playbook to hit the ground running this summer.
He’s 29 now with recent injury troubles, but believes he can bring stability, discipline and smarts to the Raiders linebacker corps.
“I think I bring some good leadership and play-making abilities,” Marshall said. “I’ve always been around the ball in my career and that’s not going to change here. I’m going to be around the ball, I’m going to make plays. I’m going to do my job and I’m going to be where I’m supposed to be. That’s all I’m expecting of myself. I have high expectations of myself, so I’m going to be around the ball. I’m going to make plays.”
He has no problem doing so in new colors, even some that represent his former team's major rival. It was weird at first, but he quickly grew comfortable with the concept.
"We were taught to hate the Raiders. We were taught to hate the Silver and Black," Marshall said. "It was the rivalry and I know it’s business, so personally I never hated the Raiders. It’s just the aesthetic that came with being a Bronco. So, when they didn’t bring me back and the Raiders were on the table, I was all in. I’m like, ‘Cool! This is where I want to go anyway.’"