NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On the final Wednesday of 2016, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota underwent surgery to repair the fractured right fibula he suffered on December 24 in Jacksonville.
Two days later Mariota, showed up on the team's practice field on a scooter, a sweatshirt over his head. His season was over, and as a result of that dreadful game against the Jaguars, the Titans were just a few days away from cleaning out their lockers for the offseason.
Fast-forward to today, and this week.
The Titans are preparing for Sunday's game against the Jaguars knowing their season is on the line. Mariota is set to play in a Week 17 game for the first time in his three-year career, and he's excited about the opportunity.
With a win, the Titans qualify for the playoffs.
"This is what you work hard for," Mariota said. "All the hard work in April, all the hard work in camp, this is what you want. You just want an opportunity, and I am like the rest of the guys – I am looking forward to it."
Mariota is well aware this will be the first time he'll play in a regular season finale. His 2015 season was cut short because of a knee injury.
Mariota has played in 14 of the team's 15 games this season, missing only the Miami game on October 8 because of a hamstring injury. Mariota played in 15 of 16 games last season, and 12 of 16 during his rookie season.
"Yeah, it's the first one," Mariota said on Wednesday. "Excited – it is a part of my job. I want to be available every single game, and I think being able to play in this one, I am looking forward to it.
"I haven't really reflected on (last year's injury) a whole lot. I'm sure at some point when the season is done I'll look back on it. But a lot of hard work, it's come a long way, and it's been nice to be able to play and be out there with the guys."
On the season, Mariota has completed 269-of-432 passes for 3,098 yards, with 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The interception total is the highest of his career.
Mariota has had success against the Jaguars. In the past two home games vs. Jacksonville, he's passed for 538 yards with five touchdowns and an interception for a 132.6 rating, along with 123 rush yards and a touchdown.
Would a playoff appearance change the public's perception of Mariota's third NFL season? Mariota said he isn't worried about any of that talk right now.
"All I really care about is winning," Mariota said. "When it comes down to it, yes I would have liked to play better throughout the year, but we have an opportunity and a chance to get into the playoffs and get into the tournament and that is all you really want to do. When the offseason rolls around, obviously I'll find ways to improve and get better from it, but right now my main focus is going out there and winning games with these guys."
Mariota noted the Jaguars have played well on defense all season, and said the Titans will need to play well to win.
He knows what's at stake.
In Mariota's first season, the Titans finished 3-13. Coming off a 9-7 record last year, the Titans have a chance to match their win total from a year ago, only this time with a playoff appearance attached to it.
"From being around here a few years (I understand the importance)," Mariota said. "It's huge, it's important. (A playoff team) is the type of culture, the type of team we want to be year in and year out and this is a step in the right direction. We have to finish it on Sunday, and we're excited.
"(The change) has been dramatic from when I stepped in the building on Day 1, just to see the transformation of what Jon (Robinson) has done, what coach (Mike) Mularkey has done. It has been impressive. It is fun to be a part of it and hopefully we can this continue year in and year out."
Titans players take the field for Wednesday's practice at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)