NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Marc Mariani went from the Music City to the Windy City.
Now he's back with the Titans, with a big smile on his face.
Mariani practiced with his teammates for the first time on Monday in preparation for Sunday's regular season opener against the Minnesota Vikings. During the course of the day he's been reunited with old friends, and he's already beginning to make some new ones.
"A lot of things are the same, but there's a lot of stuff different,'' Mariani said. "And I think it's a lot of change for the better. I am excited to be back and excited to get rolling here with these guys.
"It's been a roller coaster, man. This league can do some crazy things. When I got a phone call in Chicago and things didn't work out, your mind kind of spins and you don't know what to think. It was emotional. … When (the Titans) called it got me feeling good again. I just couldn't be more thrilled. I am excited to be a Titan again and it feels good to be back."
On Monday morning the Titans signed Mariani, a receiver/return man who was a seventh-round pick by the Titans in the 2010 NFL Draft who made it to the Pro Bowl during his record-breaking rookie season. Mariani played two seasons with the Titans, but missed the 2012 and 2013 seasons due to injury. He was released during final cuts in August 2014, and signed by the Chicago Bears during November 2014.
Mariani was released by the Bears over the weekend.
Mariani enjoyed big success during his first stint in Tennessee. He still owns a home in Tennessee. He said it's kind of "surreal" to be back.
"I didn't want to leave the first time, and I am excited to be on a team and an organization that I love and that has treated me so well,'' Mariani said. "Also, it's a team I think I can help, and wants me to come and contribute. It feels good to be wanted down here, and I am excited to get things going. The return game is the reason I am here. That will be my main responsibility out of the gate and we'll see where things go from here. I hope to contribute as much as I can."
In 2010, Mariani finished second in the AFC and fourth in the NFL with a 12.2-yard punt return average and he finished fourth in the AFC with a 25.5-yard kick return average. Mariani set the franchise record for most combined return yards on punts and kickoffs that season with 1,859 yards. Mariani became just the second Titans/Oilers player to record a punt return touchdown and kickoff return touchdown in the same regular season in 2010.
In 2011, Mariani appeared in all 16 games as a reserve, ranking seventh in the AFC with a 10.7-yard average and eighth in the AFC with a 23.4-yard average.
Mariani totaled 22 receptions for 300 yards in 2015 with the Bears, including a six-catch, 80-yard game in the team's season finale. He averaged 26.1 yards-per-return on kickoffs and 6.6 yards-per-return on punts.
"I was here with Marc in 2014,'' coach Mike Mularkey said. "I know what he's done in the past. Really his return ability is what we were looking at. Really it gives us somebody in both areas that we can use as a returner that has been to the Pro Bowl because of it. He's had a lot of success. It was good for this team. This team is excited to have him back. I think the fans will be, as well. He's one of these guys we've been talking about—tough, dependable and team-first. He fits right in with us right away.
"I know we feel better today than we did two days ago about our return game."
Titans Online looks back at the career of WR/KR Marc Mariani. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)