After missing Week 5 due to a hamstring strain, Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota will return to the field as a starter for a Week 6 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, the team announced.
Mariota injured his hamstring during the first half to Tennessee's 57-14 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 4. He ran in a two-yard tochdown before halftime to slice Houston's lead to 24-14. He suffered the hamstring injury during the play and went into halftime in pain.
When Tennessee exited the tunnel to begin the second half, backup quarterback Matt Cassel started for the rest of the game. And Mariota stood on the sidelines. After the game, head coach Mike Mularkey told Jim Wyatt of titansonline.com that Mariota wanted to see if he could still play with the injury. However, Murlarkey didn't decided not to play him.
“He came out, warmed up, and I said to him: ‘I’d like to be smart about it. There’s a lot of football still to go. We have 12 games to go, so let’s be smart about it," Mularkey said.
Heading into the Titans' Week 5 matchup against the Miami Dolphins, Mariota was limited in practice for the entire week. But Murlarkey decided to keep Mariota on the sidelines. Cassel was named the starter, and the Titans signed Brandon Weeden to serve as the backup. Miami won 16-10, and Cassel threw for 141 yards and a touchdown — and he was sacked six times.
On Wednesday, Mariota told Wyatt he "absolutely" liked his chances to suit up against the Colts on Monday night. “I feel a lot better. I have to give a lot of credit to the athletic staff, the training staff here. They’ve done a great job, and I am feeling good," Mariota said.
Murlarkey was pleased with Mariota's progress throughout the week, but he wanted Mariota to prove that he regained his mobility.
“He did more today than he did last week, and that’s a good sign,” Mularkey said. “He’s got to be able to move around pretty good to be able to play, and not put himself in a position where he is going to reinjure himself. He has to prove that by the end of the week.”
Now, Mariota and the Titans can put this hamstring injury behind them and focus on winning games.
Why is this important?
Right now, the AFC South is one of the weakest divisions in the NFL, and Tennessee needs to take advantage of that by winning as many games possible. Mariota's return to the field should galvanize this team, especially the offense. He is a dual-threat quarterback who can create plays inside and outside the pocket.
Tennessee has lost back-to-back games. Mariota gives the Titans a good chance to put an end to that.