As the Tennessee Titans prepare for their final preseason game of 2015, head coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked on Monday following practice as to the status of Marcus Mariota heading into Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Minnesota Vikings at Nissan Stadium.
The answer, though jokingly approached at first and not really an answer was not unexpected.
”He’s going to start for us…….this year,” joked Whisenhunt.
”I think it’s a feeling. We’ll see where it is after the week of practice and I mean, I’m not leaning one way or the other to be hinest with you,” said Whisenhunt.
The risk of potential injury to Mariota versus a few more snaps in a meaningless preseason game is the dilemma facing Whisenhunt and staff. While the rookie quarterback could use more reps in game like situations, but is the risk worth the rewards.
”I really don’t know, I haven’t thought that much about it,” said Whisenunt. “He’s preparing to play if we want him to play. If we don’t play him, we don’t play him. There’s just a lot of things going on in what we’re trying to get done in preparation for this week and the next week, so we’ll see how the week goes.”
When pressed on the issue of whether more reps would make a difference for Mariota, Whisenhunt bristled at the question.
”I don’t know, what do you think,” stated Whisenhunt. “You’re asking the question so you have an opinion” added Whisehunt. “You know what, to be honest with you I’m really not trying to be a smart-aleck to your question or trying to dodge you. I don’t know at this point.”
”I don’t know if it does or does not make any difference,” continued Whisenhunt. I think some of it may be a feel for where we are as a football team and I think some of it may be, wake up Thursday morning and say he’s not gonna play today. You know I just don’t know. Some of it’s going to be based upon where we are as a team and how the week’s gone. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that because ultimately, it makes him prepare to play and that’s the most important thing, to be prepared to play.”
Mariota has totaled 68 snaps in the preseason through the first three games, and while as a rookie he could certainly use more time in game conditions prior to the regular season opener, the risk of injury this late in the preseason is a major concern.
Mariota took a shot from Kansas City’s Justin Houston in the first quarter on Friday, bringing the concern even closer to the forefront of concern.
For his part, Mariota is good with whatever decision that is made.
”I’m not sure. The coaches will make that decision, but I’m ready to play,” stated Mariota following Monday’s practice. ”If they want me to play I will do my best to execute.”
As for his desire to play, Mariota was more direct.
”Of course, I’m a competitor and I love the game of football,” said Mariota. “If they give me the opportunity to play then I am going to go out there and play and try to make the most of it.”
We may not know the final decision until game time Thursday, and either way we will likely not see much of Mariota even if he does play.
This is one time when no one could fault Whisenhunt for being safe rather than sorry.
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