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Where EAST meets the Northwest

TEAM PLAYER. Quarterback Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans looks to throw a pass during the first half of a National Football League game against the Denver Broncos in Denver. Despite being benched, Mariota has helped the Titans on and off the field. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

From The Asian Reporter, V30, #02 (January 20, 2020), page 7.

Mariota helping Titans on, off field despite being benched

By Teresa M. Walker

The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ó The Tennessee Titans benched Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill in mid-October after a 2-4 start. Finding the No. 2 pick overall from the 2015 draft isnít that hard during their amazing playoff run.

Just keep an eye on the field.

The Titans (11-7) have gotten Mariota into each of their past three games with him completing a pass in two games while going out for a pass in the last game. Coach Mike Vrabel makes it clear they plan to keep tapping him as long as heís still on the roster.

"Well, we just like to try to have a role for everybody thatís active in the game," Vrabel said. "And Marcus not only had a role in the game, but will continue to have a role in the game. He helped us prepare last week. I know that heíll do the same thing this week. Heís been very supportive of Ryan, so weíll keep finding ways for him to help us during the games."

Mariota had a 92.3 passer rating during the regular season with seven touchdown passes and only two interceptions before being pulled in the third quarter of a 0-16 loss in Denver on October 13. The Titans switched to Tannehill looking for more on offense, and they averaged 30.4 points the rest of the regular season.

That left Mariota running the scout team, and heís helped by pretending to be Deshaun Watson, Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, then defending National Football League MVP Patrick Mahomes in practice as the Titans prepared to visit the Kansas City Chiefs (13-4) in the AFC championship game.

"I take every single day and I try to make the most of it," Mariota said before a recent practice. "We have a great defense, and for me, itís an opportunity to get better. Any way I can help this team and try to mimic or emulate what these guys are during the game, Iím going to do it. Iím just going to try to help our guys out."

Thatís not all Mariota has done.

Mariota wound up on the field in the regular-season finale at Houston, throwing a 24-yard pass to rookie A.J. Brown.

"He told me (during) the week he was going to throw me the ball if he checked it," Brown said. "I knew the ball was coming to me. He told me to score, and I was kind of gassed at the moment. I was kind of down I didnít score on that play."

Mariota also came on the field in Foxborough, Massachusetts, during the Titansí 20-13 wild-card win over the Patriots. He completed a four-yard pass to tight end MyCole Pruitt on the eighth play of the Titansí opening drive. Coming in for one play and one throw isnít what Mariota had been used to having started 61 of 63 games since the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner was drafted out of Oregon.

"Itís different for me for sure, but I appreciate the fact that I get to be out there with the guys," Mariota said. "Every single time, every single moment that youíre on the field, I never take it for granted."

And he mightíve scored against Baltimore in the divisional round if only Derrick Henry hadnít thrown into triple coverage to Corey Davis with his jump pass. Mariota was wide open out to the right, but Davis always was the intended target.

Kansas City coach Andy Reid remembers well Mariota leading the Titans to a 22-21 wild-card win on January 6, 2018, when he even caught his own pass. So Reid is well aware that the Titans can use Mariota as another option.

"Thatís one of the benefits to having him there," Reid said. "Heís a Heisman winner, he can run the ball, he can throw the ball. Heís a good football player. Youíve got to be ready for that."

Mariota earned $20.9 million this season with the Titans picking up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. With Tannehill and the Titans thriving together, Mariota will be a free agent March 18 with a new team in his future. Mariota says heís focusing only on one day at a time.

"If I can just be present here and help our guys out, help this team out, everything else will fall into place," Mariota said.

At press time, the Titans lost their playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs, 24-35.

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