Titans QB Marcus Mariota Looking Forward to 2016



NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Marcus Mariota got a break, and he needed it.

Following a whirlwind calendar year which saw him finish his college career, get drafted, move to another city, and then play as a rookie in the NFL, the Titans quarterback had little time to rest.

"I feel great,'' Mariota said on Monday, as he reported on the first day of the team's offseason program. "I took a month off to let my body heal up from the year. I think for any rookie it is a long year, going from the end of your college season to then the pre-draft and all that and then actually playing in the season. So it is a long year."

But now, Mariota is ready to go.

"Being away from it a little while, it makes you hungry and motivated to get back,'' Mariota said. "I am excited to be here again."

Mariota and the rest of his teammates reported to Saint Thomas Sports Park on Monday for the voluntary program. The last time they were together as a team was on January 4, following the team's season finale against the Colts.

Plenty has changed since, on the coaching staff and on the roster. The building is also undergoing some changes, including a construction project that will upgrade the locker room.

The 2016 team remains a work in progress, however, with the NFL Draft 10 days away and free agency perhaps still ongoing despite the addition of 10 newcomers since the end of last season.

One thing hasn't changed – the memory of last year's 3-13 finish.

It served as motivation for Mariota during the early part of the offseason.

TitansOnline.com looks back at the 2015 rookie season of Titans QB Marcus Mariota. (AP Photos)

"It didn't sit well, and that is who I am as a competitor,'' Mariota said. "I think there's a lot of the same feelings throughout this (locker) room. I think a lot of us are just happy to be back and working with each other. We need to make a change, and need to make a difference. And I think we are headed in the right direction."

Mariota, a Heisman Trophy winner at Oregon, broke rookie records for most touchdowns (19), completions (230), passing yards (2,818) and passing attempts (370) in his first NFL season in 2015.

He also ran for 252 yards and two touchdowns on 34 attempts, including an 87-yard run for a touchdown against the Jaguars on December 6.

Mariota played in 12 games in 2015, missing four games with injuries.

On Monday, Mariota said he spent a good part of his offseason back at Oregon training. He also went back to Hawaii to see his family for a stretch. He worked with other NFL quarterbacks in California for a week, and came back to Nashville earlier this month to work with some of his receivers and tight ends.

Mariota also looked more closely at himself. He wants to clean up his game, and hopes to cut back on his turnovers.

He also plans to be more vocal.

"Stepping up as a leader,'' is one of his missions, Mariota said. "Being more vocal, and finding ways to win."

"I think it is a more comfortable situation now,'' he said. "You have been in it for a year, and now it is an opportunity to use what you have learned the previous year, and the respect that you have learned from your teammates, and hopefully kind of use it as a tool to get your message across and get the coaches' message across."

Mariota has some new faces around him, including former Cowboys and Eagles running back DeMarco Murray.

"A huge (addition),'' Mariota said of Murray. "He is a very versatile back, somebody that can run downhill and make plays and also come out of the backfield and make plays, and also make plays in the passing game. We're going to find ways to use him, and lean on him to make some plays this year."

The Titans added former Dolphins receiver Rishard Matthews as well.

"He looks good, running routes,'' Mariota said of Matthews. "Physically he is a pretty built guy, someone who can fight for the ball."

In addition to roster changes, Mariota will be working with a new offensive coordinator in Terry Robiskie, who "has been a lot of fun since I have been here,'' Mariota said.

"He is a very likable guy, competitive, and is willing to do whatever it takes to win,'' Mariota said of Robiskie. "I think that is what we need. We need to have that mentality moving forward."

Mariota said he's comfortable with his surroundings, and ready to roll.

"It doesn't feel brand new. Obviously there's some new faces, but that's a given year in and year out. But I think a lot of us feel comfortable,'' he said.

"I think you just feel a lot more comfortable (with an NFL season under your belt). Last season it is brand new to you, you are moving from somewhere where you are comfortable as far as being there for four years, and this is a whole new city, a whole new place, a whole new part of the country for some of us.

"I'm excited to be here again."

Titans players hit the field for the start of the team's off-season workout program at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (staff photos)

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