NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Steve Mariucci remembers the injury like it was yesterday.
The former NFL head coach recalled an athletic quarterback being on the move, and then going down. Then came the dreaded news – fractured fibula.
"I remember it well," Mariucci said. "He scrambled down the sideline like those running quarterbacks do, and he got tackled. Boom, he didn't get up. It was a fractured fibula. And he was out a while. That's what you worry about with these running quarterbacks, because they do take some hits."
Mariucci, an analyst for NFL Network, wasn't referring to Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota when discussing the incident with Titans Online at the NFL Draft last month. He was talking about his days as head coach of the Detroit Lions, when Jeff Garcia was his quarterback.
Mariota suffered a fractured fibula in the team's game at Jacksonville on December 24, and is on track in his recovery. At an appearance on the Titans Caravan last week, Mariota said he's jogging, and should be running soon. The Titans are optimistic about his chances of being ready for the start of the season.
Garcia suffered his injury in 2005 during Detroit's final preseason game. He missed a good chunk of the regular season, but returned in the second half of the year. Garcia played 12 NFL seasons, with the 49ers, Browns, Lions, Eagles, Buccaneers and Texans.
Mariucci, who coached nine NFL seasons with the 49ers (1997-2002) and Lions (2003-05), said he expects Mariota to recover well, and take another big step in 2017.
"Marcus Mariota is going to be fine,'' Mariucci said. "I got to know him coming out of the draft, and I thought it would be a process for him coming from Oregon, coming from no-huddle, shotgun. I actually thought there would be a real learning curve with him.
"Well, his first game (against Tampa Bay) he throws four touchdown passes. So he took the league by storm and never created any doubt in anybody's mind. He's their guy in Tennessee. He's their franchise quarterback. And he will be fine. He will absolutely be fine."
Mariota threw for 3,426 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2016.
In the NFL Draft, the Titans selected Western Michigan receiver Corey Davis with the fifth overall pick, and also drafted Western Kentucky receiver Taywan Taylor in the third round. The team also drafted Florida International tight end Jonnu Smith in the third round.
More good news for Mariota, Mariucci said.
"The more weapons the Titans get Mariota, the better he's going to be, and the better the team is going to be," Mariucci said. "Marcus, he's just going to keep getting better and better."
TitansOnline.com looks back at Marcus Mariota's second NFL season in 2016. (AP Photos)