ORLANDO, Fla. – Look on the field during Pro Bowl practice for the AFC and it's not hard to spot the Titans fireball logo.
But one Titan isn't here – quarterback Marcus Mariota. And he's missed.
"It breaks my heart, especially when I hear the trouble they had to go through to get some of the quarterbacks here,'' Lewan said. "Some guys have been turning it down and I know Marcus would love to be here, and he sure as hell deserves it more than anybody in my opinion."
Mariota was the first alternate for the Pro Bowl following the vote of players, coaches and fans, but his dreams of playing in the game ended when he suffered a fractured fibula in the team's December 24 loss to the Jaguars. Mariota was placed on Injured Reserve, underwent surgery, and he's now recovering.
As things turned out, Mariota would've made it.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady isn't here because he's in the Super Bowl, and Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and Oakland's Derek Carr aren't here because of injuries.
"I hate it for Marcus,'' running back DeMarco Murray said. "He deserves (to be here)."
"The way Marcus played last year and the season he had,'' tight end Delanie Walker said, "it is disappointing. Hopefully next year he can stay healthy and be at the Pro Bowl." Kansas City's Alex Smith, Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and San Diego's Philip Rivers are the three AFC quarterbacks. A handful of other quarterbacks opted not to play in the game, for one reason or another. Mariota gets no Pro Bowl credit despite the fact he would've been here.
Titans players join other NFL stars in preparation for the 2017 AFC/NFC Pro Bowl in Orlando, Fla. (Photos: Amber Harding, AP)
Mariota completed 276-of-451 passes for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 95.6 passer rating in 2016. He added 349 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 2016.
Lewan said he's texted with Mariota, and his attitude is great.
"I checked with him the other day to see how he is doing, how's the leg and stuff,'' Lewan said. "Marcus is super optimistic, a great guy, and he has a super positive attitude. I want hard for him to know that he is going to come back from this."
Lewan believes Mariota will be in the Pro Bowl next year -- if he's not in the Super Bowl.
"I think he'll be in the Super Bowl next year,'' said Lewan, repeating a statement he made at season's end. "I think as long as we do the right things, and continue to get players in here that will help us succeed, and keep coming together like we did this past year, I think the sky is the limit for the team.
"But if not, I guarantee you Marcus will be here next year."
TitansOnline.com looks back at Marcus Mariota's second NFL season in 2016. (AP Photos)