NASHVILLE, Tenn. —
“I wasn’t planning on leaving, so I’m really excited and thrilled to be back in Nashville and in Titan Nation, in the community and all that,” Mariani said during a phone interview.
One of the best parts of Mariani’s offseason is that it has involved the weight room instead of the time spent in the training room last year when he was rehabbing a broken leg he suffered during the 2012 preseason.
“I’ve been focusing on getting in shape and in condition and stronger and faster; no training room for me,” Mariani said. “It’s not always such a good thing when you have hours on hours with the trainers and know everything about them. Those are the guys you want to see and smile at, say just a little bit to and be in and out. You don’t want to be spending too much time with them. A short time into the 2013 season I was out of the training room and trying to get stronger, hit the weight room and trying to improve myself as an athlete and a football player. My injuries are healed up and I’m ready to get after it.”
Mariani returned from the leg injury in time for the 2013 preseason but suffered a shoulder injury and was placed on injured reserve. He got married in February, and the newlywed has been training in Orange County, California, where his wife’s parents live. Mariani was in Nashville the first part of the offseason and was able to introduce himself to new Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt and other assistants and has April 7, when the Titans can begin their offseason program, marked on his calendar.
“All in all, I have a strong optimism of where things are going, and I think Coach Whisenhunt is bringing a new attitude in there and it’s really exciting to see,” Mariani said. “I just am excited to be able to compete. I have a lot of things to show people, I have a lot of things to prove to people about my injury situation and I’m excited about the opportunity to be able to do that in the kicking game and on offense as a receiver. I’m just looking forward to the chance to get things rolling and get out there and start making plays.”
Mariani said married life has been “awesome,” even though the wedding, honeymoon, workouts and free agency have left them without a dull moment. He and his wife planned to go to dinner to celebrate the contract.
“It’s no secret that I wanted to be back in Nashville, and that’s where my heart is, with that organization and the way they’ve treated me and all those things,” Mariani said. “That’s what we wanted, so when it finally came through and we could announce it to everyone, it’s a great day and we are excited, so we will celebrate a little, but I’m focused. I’m ready. I’ve got a little chip on my shoulder so I’m ready to get to work.”
SCHWENKE ON MEND:
“I’ve been walking around for a couple of weeks, so I’m feeling good, been rehabbing, lifting,” Schwenke said.
The 2013 fourth-round pick said he enjoyed his honeymoon at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, even though the ankle injury kept him from walking on the beach.
“It was awesome, (we) swam with whale sharks and did all sorts of cool stuff,” Schwenke said. “I didn’t really go in the sand. I took a few steps in the sand and that was tough. It was hard on my ankle, so I avoided that, but had plenty of pool time.”
Schwenke said he had the opportunity to meet Whisenhunt for the first time Wednesday.
“I only spoke to him for a few minutes, and in that few minutes, he’s here to get stuff done,” Schwenke said. “He’s trying to win, and you could tell that. We were talking about football and you could tell he’s trying to win. That’s what makes you better.”
GOODEN ADDING BULK: Gooden said he’s spent the offseason preparing for a role that could change from playing weakside linebacker in a 4-3 like he did as a rookie to being more of an inside linebacker in the hybrid defense that new coordinator Ray Horton plans to install. Gooden said he’s excited about the new defensive plan and has been adding weight.
“It looks like a lot of good stuff is going in, so if we just work hard and invest everything into it, I think we’ll have a good season,” Gooden said. “It’s pretty much the same. You just get to the same spots in different ways, and it’s just more complicated for offenses to see what you’re doing. I think it will be more beneficial for the defense as a whole.”
Gooden said he’s introduced himself to Horton and new linebackers coach Lou Spanos.
“Great guys, I’m really excited to play for them and they seem very intelligent about everything,” Gooden said. “I looked at the playbook and I’m excited to do everything. It’s going to be fun.”