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The Jets are counting on Brandon Marshall

Brandon Marshall "has become a huge chip" for the Jets and a big part of the reason for that team's turnaround this year. For the veteran receiver, he's finally found a team that's the perfect fit.

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Jets receiver Brandon Marshall spotted Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara on last Sunday evening in a MetLife Stadium tunnel, changed directions and stepped toward him.

"We'll be in touch," Marshall said.

"I didn't get your jersey," Amukamara said.

"I've got a few at home and I'll get one to you," Marshall said.

An embrace. A goodbye.

How about that? After "undressing" all of the Giants defensive backs, Marshall was willing to clothe one.

It is a post-game ritual now for NFL players to exchange jerseys, to foster memories. This was peculiar because Amukamara, seconds before this Marshall meeting, was talking about "The Beast" that is Marshall, about how he had lit the Giants secondary for 12 catches and 131 receiving yards in the Jets 23-20 overtime victory. Marshall leaped high in the end zone on the tying touchdown in the final seconds of regulation. He towered at least a foot over the cornerback at the point of the catch and made him look helpless and routed.

"It's embarrassing," Amukamara said. "I can play that play better than that. I feel lousy about it. But I don't think people understand how big he is and how big he plays. The guys that try to cover him know."

That's the thing about Brandon Marshall -- his reputation among his peers is on another level. They respect his marvelous talent, his power, his will. Marshall -- 6'4, 230 pounds -- is a rare receiver combination of strength and speed, knowledge and determination, perseverance and terrorization.

The Jets nabbed him in a Chicago Bears trade back in March that cost the Jets only a fifth-round pick.

He has become a centerpiece of the Jets 7-5 season with 83 catches, 1,062 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches. He will likely become the Jets all-time single-season receiving yardage leader. He has already become the first player in league history to have a 1,000-plus yards receiving season with four different teams (Denver, Miami, Chicago and now the Jets). When the Tennessee Titans visit the Jets on Sunday, they know Marshall can reign.

But the respect Marshall has from his peers is different from the way he is often viewed by NFL ownership, management and fans. He has long been viewed as a trouble maker, a knucklehead, a loudmouth. Nightclub incidents. Domestic abuse charges. Yes, Brandon Marshall, 31, in his 10th pro season, has a protracted list of unsavory and controversial episodes.

"Everybody has heard the stories," Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said. "But what we have seen is not anywhere near the stories people talk about. And I'm not saying it's been a bed of roses, because it hasn't. But it has been workable."

* * *

No doubt, Marshall has worked on his issues.

He told the world in July 2011 that he had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. His family has talked about him growing up around domestic violence in his home in Pittsburgh. He has talked about being in a dark tunnel, depressed, isolated, suffering. About his emotional instability. About mental illness.

And he has done something about it not only for himself but also for others. He built a foundation to help increase awareness on mental illness and has found creative ways to help people understand the importance of regulating their emotions.

But there is also little doubt that some of the ways that Marshall handles certain situations with his coaches, with his teammates, with reporters and with others touch on the wide receiver "diva" ego he possesses, his rock-solid stubbornness and the sometimes raw impatience he exhibits.

People still call him "crazy." That is pitiful and dead wrong.

Marshall is excellent at what he does, he knows it and he has strong opinions about nearly everything. He is a force, just like he is on the field. For some, that can be unsettling, even inside his locker room and among his coaches.

Gailey has a handle on it.

"We talk about things," Gailey said. "Mostly football and some not football. It's good. Anytime everybody has the opportunity to express opinions I think is good and helps a relationship. I express mine and he expresses his. You have to let veteran players do that. Guys who have earned the right.

"He understands the game," Gailey said. "He gets the game. He knows how to use his strengths. He is open to ideas and how to do new things. I think he takes care of himself pretty well. As you get smarter, you can stay productive. If you only depend on your ability, well, that starts to go down as you get older. We could see before he was signed here that he still had juice left. Not a lot of legs gone. A huge target. Played bigger and faster. He has become a huge chip here."

This is happening for Marshall and the Jets because they have learned how to use him and found a way to reach him, to stay connected to him. Marshall says he is smarter, wiser, more at peace.

His emotional reactions still swing very high and very low.

But his play does not.

"He starts out for us," Gailey said. "He goes a couple of games with double coverage. And teams say he's not doing much, so they will single cover him. And then he has a couple of great games where he can't be stopped. And then they go back and say we will double cover him. And then they stop again. It has been that kind of cycle. We have to be able to read it for what it is and make it work for us. That is a cycle you go through when you have a great player."

Brandon Tyrone Marshall is that, a great player, one day a Hall of Fame player.

He has worn out his NFL welcome wherever he has been. But he says he is smarter, wiser, more at peace now. The Jets need him and he needs the Jets. Both the franchise and the player are simultaneously finding their way out of some dark places into amazing light.

"One thing has been exhibited with us, for sure," Gailey said. "You can count on him."

I wonder how often Brandon Marshall has ever heard that?