DAVIE, Fla. -- Brandon Marshall made a juggling, one-handed catch during a drill, drawing a loud ovation from Miami Dolphins fans in nearby sun-baked stands. A few minutes later, another spectacular grab earned him a fist-bump from coach Tony Sparano and left Marshall clapping his hands.
He seemed incredibly happy.
Off the field, that isn't always the case.
The Dolphins' wide receiver says he was diagnosed earlier this year with borderline personality disorder, which has been known to stem from things such as unstable personal relationships, a negative self-image and a fear of failure. He made the decision to go public with the issue to raise awareness, and says he plans to eventually lobby Congress for funding to assist research efforts.
"For so long, I've been just trying to get help. I've been seeking help," Marshall said after practice Sunday during an interview session where he spoke for more than 30 minutes, the first 20 or so without taking a single question. "I've been talking with doctors since I've been in the NFL. No one has ever helped me. So I was praying there was a treatment out there for what I suffered from and there was."
Marshall told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for a story published Sunday that he has spent $60,000 on treatment for the disorder, which according to the National Institute on Mental Health is "a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior."
The NIMH says the disorder affects about 1 in 50 adults, making it more common than schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
"There comes a time in a guy like myself's life, with everything that I've been through, that you become bulletproof to the critics and to what the world thinks of you," Marshall said. "Right now, today, I am vulnerable. I am making myself vulnerable. And I want it to be clear that this is the opposite of damage control. The only reason why I'm standing here today is to use my story to help others who may suffer from what I suffer from."
His interview was a slightly surreal scene. First Marshall talked about the status of his marriage and how he insists his wife was unfairly labeled for whatever role she had in an incident at their home on April 22. Then he addressed the disorder, even pleading for more time although Sparano was ready for his daily question-and-answer session.
Marshall was stabbed in the abdomen during a domestic dispute, and a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon was filed the next day against his wife, Michi Nogami-Marshall. Prosecutors announced Friday, a few hours after the Dolphins' first practice of this summer's training camp, that the charge was being dropped.
Nogami-Marshall would only say that she acted in self-defense. Marshall, who was briefly hospitalized, told police that he slipped and fell onto broken glass from a vase, and said again Sunday that his wife did not "stab me with a knife." However, when sheriff's deputies said they found no blood on the broken glass, Marshall's wife was charged with the stabbing.
"I wouldn't be a man if I didn't stop the villainization of my wife and tell the truth," Marshall said. "I want to thank her, just the way she has handled not only this situation this summer but the entirety of our relationship, of our marriage. She's handled it with grace, dignity and she's been very honorable doing it."
The April incident wasn't their first public issue, either: In March 2009, Marshall was arrested in Atlanta on misdemeanor battery charges after a fight with Nogami-Marshall, who was his fiancee at the time. The charges were dropped when both refused to testify.
"I am in a position where I can live an effective, healthy life," said Marshall, who said he will continue receiving weekly treatment but did not discuss in any depth the state of his marriage.
His candor seemed to be supported by Sparano, though it is unusual for a pro athlete to reveal any sort of mental-health issue. Marshall said he believes the diagnosis -- after years of privately wondering why he was often depressed and unhappy -- may translate into him becoming a better football player.
"Out of respect for Brandon, I'm really not going to talk about that a whole lot," Sparano said. "I would just tell you that I'm going to support him. That's my job as a coach, OK, to give this young man support. And that's exactly what I'm going to do."
Marshall led the Dolphins with 86 catches and 1,014 receiving yards last season, his first with the Dolphins. In four seasons as a starter in the NFL, he's averaged 98 catches per season, including three straight 100-grab campaigns with Denver.
The stabbing incident was just one part of Marshall's eventful offseason.
He said his agent and assistant staged an intervention with him over his mental state, that he summoned a friend to begin taping his life for a documentary even though he was deeply depressed at the time, and that he prayed for help.
"You're not blessed until you bless others," Marshall said. "There's a lot of people who suffer from what I suffer from that never had the opportunity to get the right help. That's my purpose in life. Football, I have a better appreciation for it because honestly, it saved my life."
Notes: Dolphins left tackle Jake Long has been placed on the physically unable-to-perform list as he continues recovering from offseason surgery. Sparano said he is not yet concerned about Long's availability for the season-opener against the New England Patriots. ... The Dolphins agreed to terms with Ronald Fields, a defensive tackle who spent the last two seasons with the Denver Broncos. ... First-round pick Mike Pouncey practiced for the first time Sunday with the Dolphins, getting reps as the first-team center for much of the steamy workout.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press