There is a prevailing thought that the best way to maximize Marcus Mariota is to let the Titans quarterback be himself and play to his strengths.
Those strengths obviously include a fair bit of running, whether that be with a scramble when protection breaks down or with designed run-pass options.
Of course, the caveat that comes with that is that Mariota has had more than his share of injuries – especially last year when his throwing arm went numb from a hit in the opening game in Miami, and a variety of maladies plagued him all season. Mariota finally succumbed in the season finale against Indianapolis after a second opinion revealed that he could possibly be in danger of permanent injury if he risked playing.
Now, with an off-season to heal, Mariota said he feels much better heading into the regular season opener Sunday against the Cleveland Browns and is hopeful of being available for 16 games for the first time in his five-year career.
“I really believe in myself and I think every single guy that’s in that locker room, you kind of have that ego to you. At the same time, I’ve been dinged, I’ve been banged up and I understand that, but I’ve just got to do my best to be available for this team and hopefully throughout the year that’ll happen,” Mariota said. “I feel a lot better, healthy and ready to go.
“You’re never at 100 percent once the season gets going. I think you kind of understand that as a player and you’ve got to do your best day in and day out to prepare yourself and prepare your body to get to as close to 100 percent as you can. I would love to feel this way throughout the course of the year.”
Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is the latest play-caller charged with getting more out of Mariota than he has produced the past couple of seasons.
“We just want Marcus to go out there and play quarterback, and be himself,” Smith said.
Mariota, who caused a gasp among his teammates, coaches and fans when he flipped into the end zone on a two-point conversion in a preseason game against New England, said that dialing down his competitiveness for the sake of playing it safe is not in his makeup.
“My mentality as a competitor will never change. If it’s a card game, or it’s a preseason game, or it’s a regular season game, I just go out there to try to win. For me, that’s all I know how to do it and I’ll never change that,” Mariota said .
Right tackle Jack Conklin, who was held out of Wednesday’s work to rest his knee, returned and practiced on Thursday. Right guard Kevin Pamphile was added to the injury report and did not work due to a knee injury.
Linebacker Reggie Gilbert remains out after having his knee scoped before he was acquired last week from the Packers.