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Mike Mularkey Discusses Marcus Mariota at Owners Meetings



PHOENIX —** Titans coach Mike Mularkey showed up for his media session here at the NFL owners meetings on crutches.

Many of his questions centered on someone who just set aside his own pair: Marcus Mariota.

"His status is good,'' Mularkey said of the Titans quarterback. "His boot is off, he is walking around. You would not know he had an injury. There is no limp or gait in his walk. So he is right on schedule, if not ahead."

Mariota suffered a fractured fibula in the team's loss at Jacksonville on December 24. He underwent surgery, and began rehabbing the injury. He's spent a good portion of the offseason at the University of Oregon, but recently returned home to Hawaii, where he's continuing to rebab the injury.

Mularkey said the next step in his rehab is to strengthen the muscles.

Mularkey acknowledged on Tuesday Mariota's injury was "more extensive" than the one suffered by Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who suffered a fractured fibula the same day. Carr is reportedly far along in his recovery process, and is expected to take part in offseason work.

"He is very upbeat, he can't wait to get back,'' Mularkey said of Mariota. "And we monitor every day what he does."

Mularkey once again said the Titans will be patient with Mariota.

He didn't completely rule out Mariota taking part in some offseason work, however. Mariota is expected to be ready for training camp at the end of July.

"We're just going to listen to the doctors, listen to Marcus and see how he feels. We will allow him to do what he is capable of doing,'' Mularkey said.

"Marcus is working hard, and hopefully he'll be back sooner than later, I think that is what he wants to do. We are just going to wait and see … and we have time. I am not going to push him.

"If we have to adjust some things we do in practice to what he is capable of doing, we'll do that. As long as he is ready to go Week 1 that is all that matters to the team."

At the AFC coaches breakfast on Tuesday at the Biltmore Hotel, Mularkey recalled his disappointment when Mariota was injured on Jacksonville on Christmas Eve.

He said he hated it for Mariota during a year when he made so much progress.

"I felt his pain, and it wasn't in the leg when I was out there on the field with him," Mularkey said. "I was very disappointed for him, that he couldn't finish the year."

Mularkey said Mariota showed his leadership in the days and weeks that followed. Following surgery, Mariota returned to the facility in a cast, and watched practice while getting around on a scooter.

It made a lasting impression, said Mularkey, who has been using a scooter himself following recent surgery for a torn tendon in his big toe.

"It doesn't surprise me,'' Mularkey said of Mariota's presence. "It just says a lot about him. There's nothing negative about what he did. That's Marcus, and he wanted to be around his teammates."

Following a season when Mariota completed 276-of-451 passes for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns, nine interceptions, Mularkey said bigger and better things are ahead for the quarterback.

"I think he took a step last year,'' Mularkey said. "Obviously your second year in the league, you are much more comfortable, much more confident. I just thing his ability to do what he has done, continue to do that, don't have drop off, especially in his red zone play.

"I think he has to continue to maintain consistency and he can't have a drop off, and I don't believe he will."

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