NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Marcus Mariota was on the practice field Tuesday, and everyone knew it.
The reaction from the linebacker Brian Orakpo as he zeroed in on the Titans quarterback – he backed up and put his hands in the air – really gave it away. Even Mariota laughed at the exaggerated visual.
"I was just messing with Marcus," Orakpo said. "Stay away from 8! That's the franchise. That's the golden child.' We always give him a hard time. … It was great to have him out there, but I'm not going to rush anywhere near Marcus. We all understand the bigger picture and we want him to be ready to go Week 1."
Mariota, who suffered a fractured fibula on December 24 at Jacksonville, was on the field for the first of 10 organized team activities on Tuesday. Mariota did everything in the walk-through, and in individual drills. He also worked in the 7-on-7 period.
"It felt great," Mariota said after practice. "Four months ago I wasn't sure I was going to be able to participate in OTAs, and being able to do some of the drills … I was very happy and very grateful. It was fun to be out there with the guys, and I enjoyed it."
Mariota was on the field and behind center during the open period to start practice at Saint Thomas Sports Park. He handed the ball off to running back DeMarco Murray during a walk-through, and completed a soft pass to receiver Rishard Matthews. He opened things up later in the session.
Titans coach Mike Mularkey said he's getting closer to full speed, but he's not there yet.
"We'll take it day by day with Marcus," Mularkey said. "He'd like to do more. He looks like he can do more, but it's May, so we have time."
In his second NFL season, Mariota completed 276-of-451 passes for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 95.6 passer in 2016 before suffering a fractured fibula in a Week 16. The quarterback added 60 rushing attempts for 349 yards and two touchdowns.
Mariota's 95.6 passer rating ranks third in franchise history for a single season, behind only Warren Moon's 96.8 in 1990, when he was the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year, and Steve McNair's 100.4 in 2003, when he was the NFL's Co-MVP.
Mariota would've played in the Pro Bowl if he hadn't suffered the injury.
Mariota has worked in the offseason program in recent weeks. Receiver Harry Douglas said it was good to have Mariota back on the field so soon, especially in OTAs.
TitansOnline.com looks back at Marcus Mariota's second NFL season in 2016. (AP Photos)
"The way he works, his work ethic,'' Douglas said of Mariota. "He wants to be sharp and keep his connection with the receivers, tight ends, backs and o-line. It is a high priority for him.
"We love him being out there, and it just shows you his toughness and mindset coming into the season."
Mariota plans to continue taking positive steps during OTAs and minicamp. The Titans are set to begin training camp at the end of July, and the preseason begins in August.
Right now, Mariota said he isn't thinking about the injury while he's on the field. He's continuing to work with the trainers and coaches as he works his way back to 100 percent.
"For me, I was just really excited to get back on the field," Mariota said. "I was excited. I was like a little kid again to be able to go out there and to play. It's crazy, you kind of take some of those things for granted so for me I was just thankful to be out there."
Titans veterans and rookies take the field for Day 1 of the 2017 OTAs at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn, Al Wagner, AP)