Marcus Mariota adapting to huddle, complex plays with Titans
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Marcus Mariota never had to worry about huddling up to call plays at Oregon - he and the Ducks simply glanced to the sideline for what to run next.
Now with the Tennessee Titans, it's up to Mariota to huddle up his teammates and call a play only he has received from the sideline. The play can be as short as three words or as long as 11.
''For me, learning a whole new system, I have to go over it constantly so that I know what's going in,'' Mariota said.
Mariota showed his command Tuesday as the Titans took the field for their first organized workout this offseason. Whisenhunt says that hasn't been an issue since Mariota arrived as the No. 2 pick overall.
''He's obviously comfortable doing that,'' Whisenhunt said. ''He fits naturally in there.''
NFL quarterbacks get plays called into their helmets from a coach on the other end of the radio, and the Titans also have given Mariota a wristband as a backup aid for calling plays.
''He works very hard at it outside of his time here, so I think the biggest thing is just time with him,'' Whisenhunt said of Mariota. ''It'll click. He's just got to continue to hear it as we continue to build, and we're going to continue to throw things on him.''
On his first day with all his new teammates, Mariota showed off both the strong arm and speed as a runner that helped him win the Heisman Trophy along with The Associated Press player of the year. He took off for a 30-yard run at one point, though he also lost a fumble along with an interception.
Whisenhunt called it a typical first day with Mariota just one of many new players on offense. Yet Whisenhunt expects the rookie quarterback's speed and ability to run for big gains to help him earn his teammates' respect pretty quickly. The respect Mariota had from his teammates is something the Titans noticed when scouting the quarterback during his pro day at Oregon.
''They like having guys that can help them win, and I think they see that in Marcus,'' Whisenhunt said.
The rookie quarterback isn't much of a talker, at least not in the locker room. Wide receiver Kendall Wright called Mariota someone who talks only when spoken to first, something that changes when they head onto the field.
''He kind of lets his playing do the talking,'' Wright said. ''Once he puts his helmet and jersey on, he's a different player. It's straight football.''
The Titans have made it clear Mariota is expected to be their starter Sept. 13 at Tampa Bay ahead of Zach Mettenberger, their sixth-round draft pick a year ago out of LSU. For a franchise that started three quarterbacks last season, the Titans also are expected to keep veteran Charlie Whitehurst around too giving them three on the roster.
Mettenberger doesn't plan on ceding the starting job to Mariota. Mettenberger's right shoulder is healthy after costing him the final three games last season, and he also worked hard this offseason to be stronger. But the quarterbacks' lockers are right next to each other, and Mettenberger said Mariota is really sharp.
''Really he doesn't need a lot of my help,'' Mettenberger said. ''He's been picking up things pretty quickly. If he asks, I'll definitely help.''
But it's Mariota that has created more excitement for this franchise than the Titans have seen since drafting Vince Young at No. 3 overall in 2006. His jersey is selling left and right, and he is the quarterback who threw for 4,454 yards last season alone for Oregon.
Tight end Delanie Walker cautioned Tuesday was only the first day of organized team activities for a franchise trying to improve after going 2-14 in 2014.
''He got more to show, and we all going to be watching to see what he brings to the table,'' Walker said.
Notes: RB Shonn Greene was the only player not at the OTA, and Whisenhunt noted these sessions are voluntary. The coach said he would like Greene here, but the running back is a veteran who knows how to prepare himself. ... DL Sammie Hill hurt a knee during the session, and Whisenhunt said he didn't think it was serious. ... Rookie receiver Dorial Green-Beckham aggravated a hamstring, and Whisenhunt said they chose to be cautious by keeping him out.
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