For the second straight year, the Tennessee Titans and the NFL will be without former Havre Blue Pony and Montana Grizzly great Marc Mariani. And for the second straight season, Mariani will be without football on Sundays.
In a surprise move Saturday night, the Titans decided to place Mariani, in his fourth year in Nashville, on injured reserve for the 2013 season. Mariani, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2010, missed all of the 2012 season after suffering a broken leg in a preseason game last August. In similar fashion, Mariani missed the last three preseason games with the Titans this summer after suffering a shoulder injury in Tennessee’s preseason opener last month in Nashville.
With final cut day looming, and the shoulder nearly healed, Mariani figured one of two things would happen, either he would make the Titans’ 53-man roster or be waived, which meant he would instantly become a free agent.
But the Titans decided to go in another direction all together. They’ll keep Mariani as part of the team for the remainder of the 2013 season, and he’ll be paid the entire $575,000 remaining on his initial four-year contract he signed back in 2010 after being drafted in the seventh round. But on IR for another year, he’ll miss a second straight season of football, and a season which would have meant redemption for the horrific injury he suffered in 2012.
“The competitor in me wants nothing more than to play football,” Mariani told the Titans’ media last weekend. “When I first got the news, it was hard for me to swallow. I didn’t really think my season would be over today. So it is a little hard. But I am also very blessed. I am blessed to have an organization that has faith in me and wants to invest in me as a football player and a person and keep me in the building.
“When it came down to it, it was the best decision for the team, and I think there’s a lot of guys around the league that would trade places with me. … So now I go back to work.”
The Titans are showing faith in Mariani by keeping him in the organization for another season, though he’ll officially be a free agent in February. Just last week, Tennessee offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said he wanted Mariani on the 53-man roster.
“He’s a guy that if I had my way, he’d be on this roster,” Loggains told the Titans’ media last week. “He’s a guy I believe in, a guy I know can make plays as a receiver and as a return guy. I know the quarterbacks have great confidence in him. He’s one of the more well-liked players in the locker room. Every time he gets on the field, he just finds a way to make plays.”
The Titans did have other options, including placing him on injured-reserve recall, which would have made him eligible to start practicing after six weeks and to play after eight weeks. In that scenario, he would have to be on the initial 53-man roster until this past Tuesday, meaning the Titans would have had to cut someone else in order to protect Mariani for the necessary four days.
The organization could have also opted for an injury settlement — basically, paying Mariani for the time it would take to recover from the injury and letting him become a free agent. Figuring out how much time he needed could have become complicated. Indications are he needed a few more weeks of recovery before returning to action.
“I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, but I think I was ready to play some football this year. I was planning on being ready to go,” Mariani said. “But they felt like this was best, and I don’t think they are trying to pull any fast ones. I think they are doing what’s best for the team and for me. So it’s tough to argue.
“This was by far the hardest Tennessee Titan team I’ve had to make during my time here. It’s a good football team, and roster spots were at a premium. So I understand. I’m not disgruntled at all.”
So with his future set for another season, Mariani knows exactly where he stands. He’ll spend the next few weeks continuing to rehab the shoulder injury. Then, he’ll set to out to work towards starting over yet again in 2014.
“Long-term, having the year to save my body and get stronger would help anyone. The short term of not being able to play now is hard to get past, but it is not worse than any challenge I have faced before,” he said. “Like I always do, I am just going to give myself a little time to collect my thoughts and regroup and then I am going to turn it on turbo-charge and whip some (butt) again.
“At the same time, I will be supporting the guys all season, and now I will be one of the biggest Titans fans there is. I should be good at it, because I spent a year doing it last year, too.”