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Camp Notebook: Marc Mariani TD Catch More Than End of Mock Game

Posted Aug 3, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On the surface, it was a throw and catch for a touchdown to end a mock game for the Tennessee Titans on Saturday at LP Field.

To Marc Mariani, the player who caught the pass from Rusty Smith after running a seam route, and Titans season ticket holders in attendance, it was a revelation of how far he’s come in a calendar year since suffering a compound fracture in his leg while returning a kick against Arizona last preseason.

“It was good being back out there again,” Mariani said. “I think the last time I was out there, I was carted off so it was a huge step in this whole thing, and all that hard work is starting to pay off little by little. I was definitely a little tired in that two-minute drill but when I heard that play I knew if they rolled over I would have a chance so it was a good play for me, and to cross that goal line again and have that feeling was just another step.”

Above: Teammates congratulate Marc Mariani after his TD catch ended Saturday's mock game.
Below: Nate Washington hauls in a reception.
Click here for a slideshow.

Mariani’s day included his work as a slot receiver, where he also turned a short pass from backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick into a substantial gain, and some work returning kicks as the Titans held a “dress rehearsal” to prepare for Thursday’s game against Washington, which will open the preseason slate for both teams at 7 p.m.

“It was fun to have some balls come my way. I think it was more of the situations that I got some opportunities,” Mariani said. “As this whole thing plays out and I get back in the swing of things, that’s definitely what I need. It’s tough to simulate live action, so to get some balls coming my way with ‘semi-live bullets’ was good for me. I think it’s a good step forward in where I’m going and I was excited about today.”

Titans coach Mike Munchak devoted much of his attention to managing the scenarios but said Mariani “looked pretty darn good,” and receiver Nate Washington said Mariani “had an awesome day.”

“Marc’s been working very hard to get back out there on the field, so to see him back out here in any form or fashion is definitely gratifying,” Washington said.

At the time of the injury, some wondered if Mariani would play again, but advancements in surgery and rehabilitation, along with his determination to overcome setbacks have helped the seventh-round pick who made the Pro Bowl as a kick returner in his rookie 2010 season. One of the loudest moments from the crowd occurred when Mariani was announced over the speaker system as the return man for a punt.

Mariani said he heard the crowd and appreciated the fans for that moment, as well as the thoughts, prayers and well wishes they’ve sent him along the way.

“Titan Nation has always been so dang good to me. I’m just blessed,” Mariani said. “It blows me away and humbles me every time I think about it, but just to have that support really kept me going through some of those days. They don’t know how much I appreciate that, and maybe I don’t say it enough, but it is moments like that where you can kind of just really have a different outlook and appreciation for Titan Nation and for the support and love coming my way. It gives you a little extra boost on days where you need it.”

SCENARIOS TILT TOWARD OFFENSE: Saturday offered a different series of scenarios for the offense and defense to work through than what would be presented during a scripted practice, but the general prohibition of tackling and the advantageous placement of the ball before possessions tipped the scales toward the offense.

Preseason Live: Tennessee TitansDerrick Morgan appeared in position to sack Jake Locker, so close that he tapped the QB on the shoulder, but Locker continued the play and found Kendall Wright for a short touchdown. Locker finished 16-for-26 with those totals including a spike to stop the clock as an incompletion and a short pass to Kenny Britt in the end zone that an official called a touchdown, but the defense heavily disputed the call, saying Britt had only placed one foot in bounds.

Locker made a nice deep throw to Wright on his second series and led a two-minute drill scenario before halftime with six consecutive completions, moving the Titans about 50 yards to within range for a field goal. He went to Washington twice, then Britt, Taylor Thompson and two check-down throws to Chris Johnson before stopping the clock.

“The defense put some looks at us that we hadn’t seen yet, so they threw a few wrinkles in that we had to adjust to,” Locker said. “I thought we were able to do it and put a couple good drives together.”

ADJUSTMENT PERIOD: Munchak wanted rookies to experience the full routine of a game day in the pros, and familiarize all the free agents with LP Field.

Safety Michael Griffin, who’s been with Tennessee since his first-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, said he thought it helped players and coaches.

“Especially younger guys, being able to participate and see all the different things they might not have seen,” Griffin said. “It’s a different atmosphere coming to the stadium, so being able to play in front of the fans and see the real type of situations with the coaches on the sideline, up in the press box was good.”

The Titans signed autographs for the season ticket holders after the practice, and Locker and Griffin were the last to leave the field. Griffin said it was important to say thanks.

“These are season ticket holders, and these are basically the guys that pay our bills,” Griffin said. “Staying out here and showing respect to those guys, I think, is a positive thing to do for them.”

BATTLE TESTED: Running back Jackie Battle, who is competing with Darius Reynaud and Jalen Parmele for the third running back spot after Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene had a solid day.

Battle, who signed as a free agent the day before camp opened, received the ball on six straight runs with the second-team offense and also made a long return on a squib kick, fielding a bouncer down the middle and quickly accelerating.

“He runs hard. I think he fits our kind of system,” Munchak said. “He’s got a role, so I think he’s definitely getting a chance to get a lot more reps than he would have gotten. Now, it’s more seeing the backs on Thursday. The backs, you really want to see how they’re running on Thursday when they’re getting tackled and how they respond to getting hit hard. Is that ball going to come out?”

WAITING FOR SOME PHYSICAL ELEMENTS: Munchak said the simulation was good but defenders will benefit from Thursday’s preseason game because the Titans have kept some of the most physical elements out of the game.

“They get good work but they don’t get to complete the sack. They don’t get to complete the tackle, so that’s part of the technique that we need but haven’t gotten,” Munchak said. “We need to be able to cut block and do things we’re not doing. We’re not chipping out here so if a guy has a good pass rush, we’re not having the backs unload on them and those kinds of things. There’s still phases that’ll come Thursday night.”

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