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VOL. 38 | NO. 31 | Friday, August 01, 2014
Fan favorite Mariana faces long odds in comeback
Tennessee Titans’ Marc Mariani, who has missed two seasons, is hoping to make a comeback this year despite the team’s depth at both his position: kick returner and wide receiver. -- Ap Photo/Mark Humphrey
Ever since the seventh-round pick won the kick return job in 2010 and went on to play in the Pro Bowl that season, Marc Mariani has been a favorite of Titans’ fans.
And though he hasn’t played an NFL snap since 2012, it is evident just from three days in camp that Titans’ fans haven’t forgotten him.
Many remember the gruesome leg injury Mariani suffered in the 2012 preseason that many thought might be a career-ender. But the slightly built wide receiver made his way back and was working in camp again last season, pushing for a roster spot, when he was felled by a shoulder injury.
The Titans wound up putting him on injured reserve for a second year, and although the shoulder injury probably would have only sidelined him for about a month, it gave his leg more time to heal, even if it meant another year away from football.
Mariani, who could have been a free agent after the season, re-signed with the Titans for one more crack at making the 53-man roster, either as a return man or a wide receiver behind Tennessee’s big three of Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and Nate Washington.
This week, Mariani was back on the field with his teammates, and had fans approving his every move. While some players might blush at the attention given to a player who has five career receptions in three active seasons, Mariani is grateful.
“It is so humbling and so gratifying. I can’t even think of words, because of the things Titan Nation has done for me and had my back through all of this is unbelievable,” he explains.
“I feel so honored and blessed to have been in this city and with these fans. I do hear it. I hear it and I see it every day on social media.
“I can’t do anything but be thankful. They have had my back and, honestly, they have gotten me through some dark days where I was buried in the training room or in the weight room on IR,” he adds.
“Whatever it was, Titan Nation has really carried me through, so I owe them a lot. That’s part of the reason through these hot days, you hear them cheering and it gives you a little boost of energy … I can’t say thank you enough.”
When Mariani first came to the team from the University of Montana, many labeled him as a favor done by then-coach Jeff Fisher, whose son had been Mariani’s teammate with the Grizzlies.
He proved to be more than that, but even after he earned his way onto the team, he was mostly regarded as a return man who could play receiver.
Ironically, his best chance to earn a roster spot could be as a receiver who can return kicks. With the addition of Leon Washington and Dexter McCluster, the return position is loaded.
“I’m fighting in both rooms. I want the ball in my hands and I want to make plays. And the only way to do that is get better every day and grind and make the plays that come your way,” Mariani says.
Mariani has done that through the initial portion of camp, catching virtually every catchable ball thrown his way.
“I do nothing but come to work and try to compete,” he adds. “I’ve always wanted a shot to catch a few balls. I’ve always been fighting and scrapping to climb up the depth chart in the receiver room.
“But what I want to do is go out there and improve every day and be a better player.”
Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is a blogger for National Football Post.