EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Marcus Mariota is back, and he's thrilled about it.
In his first offensive series of the preseason against the New York Jets, the Titans quarterback ran the ball, threw the ball – and he proved he could take a hit.
It was his first action since suffering a fractured fibula on December 24 last season against the Jaguars.
"It was a blessing," Mariota said of being back on field. "It's an honor and it's a privilege. The recovery process was a long one, and to be able to be out there with the guys meant the world to me, and I enjoyed it."
Mariota rolled to his right and completed a 15-yard pass to receiver Rishard Matthews on the team's first offensive play. He faced pressure from 315-pound defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, but managed to get into the clear to deliver a strike.
A few plays later, Mariota was sacked by Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams, but he popped up from the ground without hesitation and on the next play completed a pass to running back Derrick Henry.
"It's part of the game," Mariota said of the hit. "It's a contact sport, and it felt good to get some of the cobwebs out."
Mariota ended up playing in two possessions before being replaced by Alex Tanney. He completed 2-of-3 passes for 15 yards and also ran once for a six-yard gain in the team's 7-3 loss to the Jets. He was sacked once for a seven-yard loss. Mariota completed a pass to tight end Delanie Walker on his second series, but the play was wiped out because of a penalty.
"I don't think he has lost a step," receiver Rishard Matthews said of Mariota. "I think he did a good job with his rehab and taking care of himself. You can't tell he was injured. I know he wanted to be out there as soon as he could to show what he is capable of."
It was another positive step for Mariota, who began a lengthy rehabilitation process after surgery last December. But the third-year quarterback took part in all 10 of the team's organized team activities, and in the offseason minicamp. He was on the field for the first day of training camp, and has made strides along the way.
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 the fractured fibula in a Week 16. The quarterback added 60 rushing attempts for 349 yards and two touchdowns.
The Titans face the Panthers next Saturday at Nissan Stadium. It will provide Mariota and the Titans another opportunity to get better leading up to the regular season opener against the Raiders.
"I was pretty pleased with Marcus," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "It was good to see him move to his right the first play, and outrun an unblocked defender. He moved around the pocket very well, and made some plays. I was pretty pleased with him."
The Tennessee Titans take on the New York Jets in the preseason opener for both teams on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 at MetLife Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones Photography, AP)