NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Marcus Mariota has been through a lot in the last four months -- mentally and physically.
On Monday, the Titans quarterback looked ahead. He plans to be ready for the season, and he wants to do his part to get the team over the hump, and into the playoffs, in 2017.
"It's fun to get back in here and see the guys and get football going again," Mariota said on the first day of the offseason program. "I have been doing everything in my power to get healthy, and I'll continue that up to the season."
Mariota, who suffered a fractured fibula in the team's loss at Jacksonville on December 24, said he's on track in his recovery. He strolled into the auditorium at Saint Thomas Sports Park without a limp, and said he's making progress in the rehabilitation process with the help of trainers.
Mariota is jogging at this point. He hopes to start running full-speed in a few weeks.
"I am doing pretty much everything," Mariota said. "I haven't been able to really run. I am starting to jog a little bit here and there. I am just following the protocols and procedures that we have in place with the training staff here. I'm just going to follow their lead."
He hopes to be ready for training camp at the end of July, if not before.
"I am going to do my best and position myself to be ready to go at any point,'' he said. "We'll see. It just kind of depends on how I feel and if my ankle is ready to do it all."
Mariota on Monday recalled the day the injury took place, in Jacksonville. He said he initially thought he rolled his ankle, but realized when he stood up and tried to put weight on the ankle it was worse.
He hated the scooter he used after the surgery, and was frustrated by not being able to finish the season. But during each stage, he felt better about things.
"As I progressed throughout the recovery process, going from a cast to a boot to getting off the scooter to getting on crutches to walking in a walking boot to taking it off and walking around … each step of the process it felt good," Mariota said.
"For me, I was never negative at any point and time. … As I got from one step to the next, it just felt good."
After surgery, Mariota spent some time in Nashville. He then headed to Oregon, where he spent a good portion of the offseason before spending some time back home in Hawaii.
Mariota returned to Nashville early last week.
Teammates on Monday said they checked with him throughout the offseason. Linebacker Brian Orakpo said he texted him to stay off a surfboard while in Hawaii.
Running back DeMarco Murray said he's been encouraged by what he's seen.
"He's a hard-working guy," Murray said of Mariota. "I got a chance to see him last year and throughout the course of the season he works extremely hard. I don't think he'll miss a beat when he comes back. We've been able to throw a couple of times and he looks good. … Obviously we're not 11-on-11 by he looks good to me. He is putting it where it should be."
Mariota said he spent time away from football catching up with friends.
He's played online video games with his friends, among other things.
He's doing his best to remain patient. He's champing at the bit to get back on the field following a season when the Titans finished 9-7, and one win short of making the playoffs.
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 contest at Jacksonville. 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 called his recovery a "step by step" process. He said is game won't change when he returns.
"We are not going to hold myself back," he said. "We are not going to change the offense. It is all full steam ahead."
As a team, Mariota wants the Titans to take the next step this fall.
"That's the goal, correcting those things and providing us the opportunity to win the division and go win a Super Bowl. That is everyone's goal come day one,'' Mariota said. "And that is our focus: fixing the things we messed up last season and doing our best to win the division and get into the playoffs."
Titans QB Marcus Mariota was among the players on hand for the start of the team's offseason workout program at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)