Marcus Mariota Doesn't Want to Let Fan Base Down

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Marcus Mariota sure knows how to draw a crowd.

Take Monday, for instance. The Titans quarterback signed autographs for fans after training camp practice, and the line was several hundred fans long. Mariota signed until a horn blew at Saint Thomas Sports Park. It was supposed to be a signal for Mariota to wrap it up, but he kept going, and going and going.

He signed for roughly an hour.

"I think there was a couple of people there that had stayed since midnight, and that's incredible,'' Mariota said after practice on Tuesday. "We truly appreciate the support.

"(I sense) excitement, a lot of enthusiasm (from the fans). But that is an expectation we have to live up to. We can't go out there and not do well. As we continue to go forward in this training camp, if we do better, hopefully that will continue to go well."

Mariota doesn't plan to let them down.

The Titans wrapped up their fourth training camp practice on Tuesday. It's been a solid start to camp for Mariota, who's headed into his second NFL season.

Coach Mike Mularkey and teammates have praised Mariota for his efficiency, and quick decision-making early on throwing the football. Mariota has also turned some heads running the football, looking good on designed runs.

"I hope it adds a dimension to our offense,'' said Mariota, who ran for 252 yards and two touchdowns last season in 12 games. "It allows us to be versatile. It allows us to do a lot of different things … and hopefully that can add and make our offense that much better."

Mariota set franchise records for most touchdowns (19), completions (230), passing yards (2,818) and passing attempts (370) in his first NFL season despite missing four games with knee injuries. He said he's ready to run in 2016, no matter the risks.

"I think if you play with the mindset of trying to protect yourself and trying not to get hurt you end up getting hurt,'' he said. "I have been in a lot of situations throughout my career where I got kind of tagged  or I got hit pretty good and I kind of learned from it. It is more about being instinctive and not trying to play soft."

Mariota's working on his passing game, too, of course. Along the way, he's getting used to some new weapons, from rookie Tajae Sharpe to veteran Andre Johnson.

"His physical presence,'' Mariota said of Johnson, a seven-time Pro Bowler. "He is pretty savvy, a really good route runner. We are excited to have him and look forward to seeing it on the field."

As for Sharpe, the team's fifth-round pick who has worked with the first team this offseason.

"Really, from the moment he got here, coming off the line,'' Mariota said of Sharpe, "his route-running has been really crisp. As we continue forward he has to continue to learn how to get off press, and how to get off certain coverages. But from what we have seen so far, he has done a really good job."

Over the next few weeks of training camp – and throughout the preseason – Mariota plans to continue finding ways to improve his game.

The team's first preseason game is scheduled for August 13. The regular season opener is set for September 11.

"Just coming out here (this year), you feel a lot more comfortable,'' Mariota said. "Everything is a lot more familiar, and you kind of know what to expect in the everyday grind.

"… I'm just going to keep working. The key is for all of us to keep working and keep finding ways to get better."

Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota signed autographs and took photos with fans after the team's training camp practice, Monday. (Photos: Susanna Nickell)

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