NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Marcus Mariota looked forward on Wednesday.
After the Titans quarterback took the field for the team's minicamp, he spoke with optimism about his surroundings, from his new teammates and coaches, to what's ahead.
"It is awesome to be back out there," Mariota said after practice. "It is awesome to play ball. It is fun to go out there and see some new faces, and to go out there and compete. It's a blast.
"I think the energy has been great. Guys are excited, guys are flying around."
But Mariota also took a few moments to look back. He spoke about how far he's come compared to a year ago.
Mariota also shared his source of motivation heading into this season, which came in the form of a playoff loss to the New England Patriots.
"It is kind of crazy to think about where I was last season at this time, and now here I am today, to be able to run out there and compete and practice with these guys," said Mariota, referring to the fractured fibula he suffered at the end of the 2016 season, which limited his involvement in offseason work a year ago. "It is night and day, and I am just excited to be back out there with the guys.
"(Last year) I wasn't able to be out on the field, and at that point and time it is hard. You are just trying to focus on getting back and rehabbing and doing everything you can to recover so that when training camp came around I was ready to go."
Mariota has used the season-ending loss to the Patriots to inspire him further. Earlier this offseason he worked with some of his teammates in California, and more recently he's been able to spend time with his new coaches and teammates at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
"I think the motivation is the fact we were a couple of games away from playing in the Super Bowl," Mariota said. "With all that being said, to take that next step, it is on us. For me that s all the motivation you could ever ask for."
Mariota, the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, has thrown for 9,476 yards with 58 touchdowns and 34 interceptions in his first three seasons, with a 61.8 completion percentage and a passer rating of 88.6.
Mariota's numbers dipped in 2017 in his second full season under former head coach Mike Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie. After throwing for 3,426 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2016, Mariota threw for 3,232 yards with 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 2017.
While he guided the Titans to another 9-7 record, and into the playoffs, his passer rating dipped from 95.6 to 79.3. Mariota's passer rating as a rookie was 91.5, when he threw for 2,818 yards with 19 touchdowns in 12 starts.
Mariota should benefit from the new offensive scheme of offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, under head coach Mike Vrabel. The offense is expected to allow Mariota to be on the move more, and allow him to make plays.
But Mariota himself said "it's a process." His early work with LaFleur has "been great," Mariota said.
"It takes some time, and everyone is doing their best to learn the playbook, learn about each other," Mariota said. "It takes time, but as we go through this process, as we continue to learn more about each other and continue to communicate, all the stuff on the field will take care of itself."
Titans players take the field for Wednesday's minicamp at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Donn Jones, Gary Glenn)