Titans QB misses practice, chances of playing pretty good

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota did not practice Wednesday, giving the sprained MCL in his left knee a day of rest. The rookie was not wearing any protective gear on his injured leg as he talked about playing Sunday.

No brace, not even a wrap for any support.

Mariota said he would wear a brace if he must. He also said his chances of playing against the Atlanta Falcons are pretty good, and he's keeping up with treatment and preparing as if he will start his sixth NFL game.

''You got to be able to show that you buy into what's going on here, and I'm going to do my best to make sure that I'm prepared and hopefully can go on Sunday,'' Mariota said.

Mariota sprained the ligament in his knee when hit low by Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon in last week's 38-10 loss to Miami, and Vernon said Wednesday the NFL fined him for the hit. It's the same knee Mariota sprained in 2013 at Oregon, and he played the final four games that season wearing a brace.

''Having that same injury is going to help me with my treatment and how I feel,'' Mariota said.

Protecting the Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 pick overall in the draft could mean making sure Mariota misses a game - or more - to heal. Mariota was sacked five times, including the play where he was hurt, and he turned the ball over four times. His backup is Zach Mettenberger, who started six of seven games he played as a rookie without a victory.

The Titans (1-4) have lost four straight and 14 of their last 15 dating back to last season. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Mariota is day to day and making progress. The rookie showed his toughness by not missing a play when being hurt and was only pulled within the final two minutes with the game out of reach.

Deciding whether Mariota plays will mean the quarterback has to be able to move with no issues with his knee.

''He's had something like this before,'' Whisenhunt said. ''He has a good feeling for what's normal for him. I think you've just got to walk the line of, he's a tough guy and he wants to play, and we've got to make sure that he's OK to play.''

Mariota already has thrown more touchdown passes than any rookie quarterback for this franchise except Vince Young, who had 12 TDs in 2006. Mariota has thrown for 1,239 yards and is completing 64 percent of his passes. He's also been sacked 19 times.

The rookie quarterback said he's optimistic about practicing at some point this week.

If he does play, he'll be taking snaps from another rookie in center Andy Gallik, the Titans' sixth-round draft pick out of Boston College. Gallik replaced Brian Schwenke, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday after dislocating his left ankle two series after Mariota was hurt.

Wide receiver Kendall Wright wants his quarterback coming back when he's healthy.

''So if he plays this week, I'm going to be happy,'' Wright said. ''Happy regardless if he does. But that gives us a lot of confidence to know what kind of guy we're dealing with from a quarterback perspective.''

Notes: Mariota wasn't the only player not to practice Wednesday. Half Tennessee's starting secondary sat out in cornerback Perrish Cox (hamstring) and safety Michael Griffin (knee), and RB Dexter McCluster (illness) was out with WR Harry Douglas (ribs). ... LB Avery Williamson, who missed the Miami game with an injured hamstring, practiced fully with NT Sammie Hill (right knee). ... The Titans added OLB Markus Pierce-Brewster to their practice squad before practice. ...

---

Online:

AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.