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Notebook: Marc Mariani's Return to Action 'Pretty Surreal'

Posted Aug 8, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There were bright lights at the end of this tunnel.

Marc Mariani received a robust reception from Titans fans who were glad to see him return to action as a return specialist. Click here to see a slideshow from Thursday's game.

Titans receiver and return specialist Marc Mariani joined teammates in running through the oversized inflatable helmet and onto the surface of LP Field. When his name was announced as he stood in position to field Washington’s first punt, the crowd loudly responded.

It’s been almost a year since Mariani suffered a broken leg while returning a kickoff against Arizona in a preseason game last August. Some days during the recovery, there wasn’t much light at all, but Mariani kept working and rehabbing and moving toward the end of his tunnel.

“I heard them, you know, standing out there and hearing your name called and having the fans react like that is indescribable,” Mariani said. “It’s hard to put into words because they’ve been there for me from the get-go, ever since I was drafted. It’s been so good and a blessing to be here with Titan Nation, and to have that support is unparalleled.”

The punt from Sav Rocca landed out of bounds, slightly delaying what Mariani wanted to do and what the crowd wanted to see him do.

“I was pretty bummed when it hit the sideline but that’s got to be part of my game, to make the right decisions, but I was definitely antsy to get my hands on the football tonight,” Mariani said.

Opportunity knocked again later in a game that Washington won 22-21 with a late score long after starters from both sides were on the sidelines.

Mariani had an eight-yard return of a punt and had another of 35 yards that was negated by a holding penalty that occurred a considerable distance from the path he took during the return. He added a 32-yard kickoff return. Mariani said what he experienced Thursday night made the recovery process worth it.

“There were moments in the past year where you’re uncertain,” Mariani said. “You don’t know if you’re ever getting back to that point and the opportunity. It was a special night for me and the fans were so unbelievable to me tonight. It was pretty surreal. I can’t think of any other word besides special, and I feel blessed and just thankful for this opportunity.”

ROOKIES DEBUT: Thursday presented the first opportunity for first-round pick Chance Warmack, second-round selection Justin Hunter and the other Titans rookies to make their professional debuts.

Warmack started at right guard between center Rob Turner and right tackle Mike Otto. Although Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan was able to notch a sack against him, Warmack responded. His night also included pulling to the left side to help create space for Shonn Greene on a 19-yard TD run.

“What I am starting to figure out is that preseason is a time for you to get a feel for what you can do in the regular season,” Warmack said. “There were some things I did out there I thought I could get away with in terms of technique.”

Hunter was targeted twice and made one reception for four yards, but it appeared his momentum in coming back to the ball caused him to give up a couple of yards that would have converted the third-and-5 play.

Cornerbacks Blidi Wreh-Wilson (third round) and Khalid Wooten (sixth round) were able to play significant minutes, and defensive lineman Lavar Edwards (fifth round) recorded a sack. Seventh-round pick Daimion Stafford was on the opening kickoff coverage unit and played as a reserve in the secondary. Linebacker Zaviar Gooden (ankle) and center Brian Schwenke (hamstring) did not play.

COMPETITIONS CONTINUE: Turner started at center and was relieved by Fernando Velasco. Veteran Chris Spencer is also in the mix for the spot, and the Titans likely want to have that determined by the time they host the Atlanta Falcons on Aug. 24.

Alterraun Verner started at right cornerback opposite Jason McCourty. Verner has been in competition with Tommie Campbell and the Titans are taking a look at Coty Sensabaugh, who replaced McCourty fairly early, as well as Wreh-Wilson and Wooten at corner.

NEXT PRACTICE: Titans players are off Friday but are scheduled to return to practice at 3 p.m. Saturday and 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Saint Thomas Sports Park for sessions that are free and open to the public.

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