If Marc Mariani has a battle on his hands in order to make the Tennessee Titans’ 53-man roster at the end of the month, he’s certainly taking the fight to his competition.
The Titans opened training camp last week, and the former Havre Blue Pony and Montana Grizzly great has been making some splashy plays thus far.
On the first day of training camp, Mariani ended the Titans’ first official practice of the 2014 season with a 60-yard touchdown catch in live drills. The pass come from backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who laid a beautiful pass up the right sideline, to an open Mariani, who beat his defender one-on-one.
Mariani has been noted in the Titans’ Training Camp report several times since, especially for his plays on the offensive side of the ball. Mariani is once again trying to make the Titans’ roster as a backup receiver, but he’s also in a battle for his usual role on special teams.
Mariani is locked in a dual with veteran return man Leon Washington for the punt and kick return job, a job Mariani owned in 2010 and 2011. But, like Mariani, Washington is also a former Pro Bowl return man, and both have valuable experience in the NFL return game. Mariani has three career touchdowns, two coming on punt returns and one on a kickoff return against the Denver Broncos in 2010. Washington has five career kickoffs returned for scores.
Both are also similar in that their value as a backup at an offensive position in Ken Whisenhunt’s new offense will come into play. Mariani has seen limited action at the WR position for the Titans in his two full seasons of action. He was set to have a more prominent role in the Titans’ 2012 offense, before a disastrous leg injured in the preseason derailed his chances of seeing more time on the field, and not just as a returner. Washington’s value as a backup on offense would be at the running back position, where the Titans are breaking in new stars after they parted ways with Chris Johnson in the offseason.
But while Mariani is making plays and turning heads as a WR so far in training camp, he knows, and understands that his time to really shine comes in the return game, and he also knows he must continue to make plays in camp in order to fight the stiff competition he faces every day.
Marc Mariani, left, finishes off a touchdown catch from Titans' quarterback Charlie Whitehurst during a scrimmage at Tennessee's training camp last week in Nashville. Mariani has been impressive in camp, both as a return man and as a wide receiver as he tries to make the Titans' 53-man roster, and play in the regular season for the first time since 2012.
“For a guy like me, training camp is the time when I have to make my plays, do my thing, just to try to make plays and earn a spot on this roster,” Mariani told the Nashville media recently. “I have to use the experiences of these last two years to my advantage. You know, because I got it all taken away. My career, the game was taken away from me the last two years, so you do look at it differently now. I got to look at it from the outside in, kind of feel what it feels like to be on the sidelines. I hate it. I don’t want to be there and I’m going to do everything I can to stay off that sideline.”
The Titans are currently in Atlanta, holding joint practices with the Atlanta Falcons. Mariani’s first opportunity to take a major step toward making the Titans’ 53-man roster comes Saturday when Tennessee hosts the Green Bay Packers in the first preseason game of 2014. The game is set for 6 p.m. Saturday night at LP Field in Nashville. The Titans will play four preseason games before their 53-man roster is announced at the end of this month.