NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger proved he can take a hit in his first live action since last season.
Well, sort of.
"Byron Stingily's butt was the only thing that him me,'' Mettenberger said of Friday night's preseason opener in Atlanta. "So credit to the guys protecting me."
The bottom line is Mettenberger looked sharp in his 25 snaps against the Falcons. He completed 8-of-11 passes for 129 yards in relief of starter Marcus Mariota, including a 30-yard touchdown pass to receiver Rico Richardson. His passer rating was 104.0.
Mettenberger's 2014 season was cut short because of a right shoulder injury, which caused him to miss the final three games after making six starts. The second-year quarterback rehabbed the shoulder at the end of last season and during the offseason, and said he feels good throwing the football.
Mettenberger blamed himself for an interception on a deep ball to receiver Justin Hunter, when he left the ball short. On the play, Mettenberger wasn't able to step into the throw as Stingily was backed into him while blocking. But he wasn't sacked by the Falcons.
"I just want to have fun. It's good being back on the field after an injury ended last season, and I just want to go out there and have fun and when you are having fun and don't have stress, you are able to operate quickly and clear-minded,'' he said.
"I have been throwing it with no pain or anything, so everything is good. I'm just ready to get hit."
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said Mettenberger has made "strides" since last season, when he completed 107-of-179 passes for 1,412 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions as a rookie. Mettenberger was sacked 18 times in his six starts, however, and the hits resulted in his shoulder injury.
In Sunday's practice, in fact, Whisenhunt gave Mettenberger a "fist bump" after one of several nice throws.
Mettenberger believes he should be able to get rid of the football quicker in the pocket moving forward.
"As you grow and mature as a quarterback, understanding the system more and understanding how the best in this league operate, it helps,'' Mettenberger said. "Getting the ball out as quick as possible and looking for the open guy and looking for mismatches, understanding the coverage and knowing where you have to go with the ball, that is part of the progression and maturation I am going through as a quarterback."