NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Most national observers view Sunday's Titans-Buccaneers game as a battle between the young quarterbacks.
Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston was the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, while Marcus Mariota was selected second overall by the Titans.
Mariota on Monday said he has a lot of respect for Winston, who won the Heisman Trophy a year before he did. But he wants no part of the QB talk heading into the regular season opener.
"It is about us, it is about the Tennessee Titans and that's all that matters to me,'' Mariota said on Monday. "People will obviously try and make debates and opinions about what is going on, but I am focused on what our team has to do and on Sunday.
"I don't play defense, so I don't play against Jameis. Obviously people will continue to make that debate, but you can't focus on it."
Mariota looked unflappable during the preseason, when he completed 21-of-30 passes for 326 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He posted a passer rating of 102.9.
Still, Mariota said he expects to be nervous on Sunday, "but I get nervous before every game."
"It's just a matter of getting that first play out of the way, and focusing on what my job is,'' Mariota said.
His primary focus: Helping change the fate of the Titans following a 2-14 season.
QB Marcus Mariota and LB Brian Orakpo address reporters on the team's Week 1 matchup at Tampa Bay. (Photos: Gary Glenn)
Mariota said he doesn't take losing very well, and that's what makes him the player he is today. He's motivated. On the field, he said he sees himself as "distributor" because he believes the team has a lot of playmakers on offense, he said.
Despite the attention he's received, Mariota said he's stayed grounded. He credits his parents, who will make the trip from Honolulu to Tampa for Sunday's game. And his teammates.
"I feel like a rookie. I get reminded every day by the vets, so you don't forget about that,'' Mariota said with a smile. "But you have to do your best to make the game simple, and if you prepare yourself you'll have that ability."
During the course of the preseason, Mariota's teammates have raved about his poise, and leadership skills. Now, it's time for the regular season.
Titans veteran linebacker Brian Orakpo on Monday said Mariota is ready for the opener.
"He is ready to rock and roll, I really believe so,'' Orakpo said. "I don't have any doubt in my mind he is … going to take care of business. This guy has a lot of poise for this game, his pocket awareness is phenomenal. He knows how to throw the ball with great accuracy with heat in his face.
"He does it all, and he doesn't get rattled. He'll throw a pick and shake it off and he's telling guys "Let's go." You don't see that usually from young guys...He has a great leadership quality about him."