By TERRY McCORMICK , Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans have yet to set an official timetable for the quarterback's return from surgery on his right leg. The latest benchmark is reporting for the start of the offseason program.
The third-year quarterback now will finish his recovery from the season-ending injury at team headquarters after doing much of his rehabilitation at the University of Oregon this offseason.
"It's important to be here, because together, you're building the foundations that you're going to use throughout the entire year," Mariota said Monday. "You're building the chemistry and the camaraderie that's going to make this team successful. I'm happy to be here, and I'm excited to be here. I'm sure all the guys are."
Mariota broke his right fibula on Christmas Eve in a loss at Jacksonville and had surgery a few days later. That started the recovery process that the Titans initially said would take up to five months. Mariota spent the first two months in a cast.
"It's kind of building those foundations back up, and I think we're in a good place," Mariota said. "I understand that I've got a lot of time to get my body right, and that's my goal."
Next up is running full-speed, something he hopes to do within the next three weeks.
"There are things where that have allowed me to push the envelope a little bit whether it's jogging or doing some other stuff on the treadmills, and things like that," Mariota said. "For me, that's my next benchmark."
Coach Mike Mularkey, still in a walking boot himself following his own foot surgery this offseason, said Mariota appears to be ahead of schedule.
"You would not know he's had the extent of the injury he has had," Mularkey said. "He's doing good. He's on track. I'm not going to forecast when he's going to start doing normal functional exercises, but he's doing good. He's ahead of schedule, but I'm not going to put a timeline out there."
Mariota walked without a limp when he talked to reporters Monday. He has even thrown with running back DeMarco Murray.
"We've been able to throw a couple of times, and he looks good," Murray said. "Obviously it's not 11-on-11. But just running routes on air, he looks good to me. He's putting it where it should be."
Mariota had a strong second season in the NFL, helping the Titans go 9-7 . He threw for 26 touchdowns and only nine interceptions with a 95.6 passer rating.
For Mariota, this marked the first significant injury of his football career. Staying positive played a big role in his recovery so far, especially when he was stuck in a cast and couldn't walk around.
"I was just focused on what I could do and how I could get better every day. Again, I just progressed through as I got from one step to the next, and it felt good. You felt like you were accomplishing things. I'm doing everything in my power to get healthy, and I'm going to continue to do that up till the season."
NOTES: Only two players failed to show up for the first day of the voluntary offseason workout program, including 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, one of the Titans' second-round picks a year ago. Cornerback Bennett Okotcha was the other absentee. Mularkey said that is the player's choice. Mularkey said the Titans have had coaches in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and he has seen video of Henry in the weight room. "So he is absolutely working out," Mularkey said.