CARLISLE, PA., JULY 31 -- Wilber Marshall begins this season much the way he ended the last one -- with a discussion about roles, expectations and employer-employee relations. No apologies, please.

He begins by stepping in front of a couple of microphones and a half-dozen notebooks and telling the world, yes, he's still happy to be a member of the Washington Redskins. Yes, he's tired of being asked whatever happened to that other Wilber Marshall, one of the fiercest Chicago Bears of them all.

Friends and fans wonder why he doesn't walk into Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs's office and say something like: "Let me go. You haven't seen Wilber Marshall yet. Don't you know how great I could be?"

Marshall said he listens to such suggestions, smiles, then repeats what he has said hundreds of times since joining the Redskins two years ago: It's his job to play, not coach.

"Wilber would never do that," teammate, friend and fellow linebacker Monte Coleman said. "People don't understand. The coaches do the game plans. The players do what they're told."

If it's defense against the run the Redskins are willing to pay $1.2 million a season for, it is defense against the run Marshall will provide.

Yet, he also wants the people who had him pegged as a can't-miss prospect for the Hall of Fame to know a funny thing has happened on his way to Canton. He wants them to know he hasn't disappeared, and that while he has tailored his awesome skills to fit the Washington system, he also has put together two very productive seasons for his new team. And he has gotten wealthy.

"My first consideration is my family," he said, "and I'm making a very good living. How can I complain? The thing is, people expect you to be Superman. Fans don't understand the technical part of the game, and they think you've been a disappointment. I can't go to the coaches and say blitz or else. That's just not me."

For a guy who some say disappeared, he still does a good imitation of a quality football player. His 133 tackles in 1988 and 108 in 1989 were the two best years of his career. He got four sacks each of the last two years, which is only slightly less than his three starting seasons in Chicago when he had 6, 5 1/2 and 5.

He had nine interceptions in three years in Chicago, four in two years in Washington.

"But that system was different," Marshall said. "I was being sent in all the time in Chicago. I gambled and freelanced. It's not up to me to just come here and change the system. I'll do what ever they think is for me. I'm in here fitting the mold they want."

Redskins defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon said that Marshall has had two very good seasons, and that in some other situations, he might have had a chance for a third Pro Bowl trip.

"He's a good solid player, but people expected a guy who'd come in and hit 60 home runs," Petitbon said.

That's what happens to guys who come in with a five-year, $6-million contract in their pockets. At the time, he was the NFL's highest-paid defensive player and the first free agent to change teams in 11 years.

He came with the reputation of a destroyer. The Bears had put him at outside linebacker in Buddy Ryan's "46" defense and turned him loose to be almost a stand-up defensive end. Along with the Giants' Lawrence Taylor, he virtually re-defined what people thought a linebacker should be.

The Bears got to the Super Bowl with guys named Dent and Singletary and Hampton, but it was Wilber Marshall, roaming sideline to sideline and breathing fire on quarterbacks, that a lot of people remembered.

The Redskins may have known exactly how Marshall would fit into their defensive scheme, but their fans did not. Marshall may have been the perfect linebacker for the "46" and no small part of his success was because he played behind a great defensive line that allowed him the freedom essentially of being, like Taylor, a stand-up defensive end.

It was different in Washington, where the standard 4-3 was the defense of choice and the defensive line wasn't nearly as good as the one Marshall played behind in Chicago. The responsibilities were vastly different. While Ryan wanted kamikaze football, Petitbon wanted Marshall to cover his territory, to occasionally blitz or cover pass receivers, but almost always to play the run.

Marshall may have done this job better than anyone on earth, but it is not the type of responsibility that's going to get much film at 11 or Pro Bowl votes.

Friends say he occasionally has grumbled about this new system, but today the closest thing to a complaint was: "I'm a Redskin and I'm doing what I'm told. Next time {when his contract comes up for renewal in 1994}, who knows?"

Mostly, he accepts his role with grace and dedication and tries patiently and articulately to explain everything.

"I think I've done a good job of fitting the mold they wanted here," he said. "I've played as well as I can and would still like to get back to the Pro Bowl. I hear people say I should do better, but I had 130 tackles two years ago when I would have had 70 in Chicago."

The Redskins say they still want what Marshall has given them on the field. They know that some in the NFL consider his talent misused -- Ryan, the Eagles coach, reportedly has been very critical the Redskins haven't changed their system to fit his talent -- but they remain confident of their defensive schemes.

"He really settled in about midseason last year," Gibbs said. "I think he really blossomed and we know his value to the Redskins."