NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Marcus Mariota didn't play in the team's season finale on Sunday night, and Titans coach Mike Vrabel preferred to discuss the team's loss to the Colts than his injured quarterback.
Mariota's teammates, however, came to his defense in the locker room after the game, speaking about his commitment to the team and his toughness after he was among the team's inactives.
"If you ask me, he's the No.1 toughest guy on the team," receiver Taywan Taylor said of Mariota. "Nobody else is in his shoes, so nobody can speak to what he is going through. I think it is unfair for anyone to question him. Nobody knows about injuries, and how his body feels. Everybody is behind him and he has our full support."
Titans safety Kevin Byard agreed: Mariota's teammates have his back.
"I think it would be foolish for anybody in the world to question this man's will to win, his toughness, his character," Byard said of Mariota. "I've seen this man fight through so many injuries and come back from so much, even this year.
"The guy is a warrior, and I have seen him get knocked down, injured, and come back and play in the same game. I would never question his toughness and his character."
Mariota was limited in practices all week because of neck and foot injuries, and listed as questionable for the contest. He was officially ruled out 90 minutes before kickoff on a night when the Titans lost 33-17 to the Colts.
Vrabel said the decision to keep Mariota sidelined was made by a group of team officials.
"It was a decision that a lot of people came together and made," Vrabel said. "He wasn't out there tonight, and wasn't available. All of our players want to play, every single guy wants to play – that's why they're in this business. Sometimes that's not always possible. … We made the decision that Marcus wasn't going to play tonight. We'll continue to evaluate him.
"Marcus didn't play tonight," Vrabel added. "I am not going to go into much detail with where he's at physically, and the decision … He didn't play, and I am not going to sit here and discuss Marcus."
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert started for the Titans, while Austin Davis served as the team's No.2 quarterback.
Mariota was injured in the first half of last Saturday's game vs. the Redskins. Mariota started 13 of the team's 16 games this season, and played in 14 of 16. He finished the year with 2,528 passing yards with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He set the franchise record with a completion percentage of 68.9 %.
Mariota watched the game on the sideline, wearing a baseball cap. Mariota wasn't made available to speak to reporters after the game. He was headed out of the locker room as reporters entered following Vrabel's press conference.
"Marcus is the ultimate competitor – I know it killed him (not to play)," Titans tackle Taylor Lewan said. "I am proud of him and I am proud of Vrabel for making that decision, because I don't know if Marcus would have made a smart decision for himself because he cares about the boys that much."
The Tennessee Titans take on the Indianapolis Colts in Week 17 of the 2018 season on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
The Tennessee Titans prepare to take on the Indianapolis Colts in Week 17 of the 2018 season on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)