Titans' Mariota still dealing with weakness in throwing hand

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

By TERESA M. WALKER


Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Marcus Mariota wakes up every morning hoping his injured right hand feels better.

Unfortunately for the Tennessee Titans quarterback, the weakness is still there, along with numbness and tingling in two fingers.

That's why Mariota was limited Wednesday at practice for the Titans, even as he cut up a glove to cover those two fingers hoping to give himself a better grip of the football.

"I think it's close, but again we're going to just take it one day at a time," Mariota said.

Mariota hurt the elbow on his throwing arm in the season opener, a 27-20 loss in Miami. He was intercepted twice after the injury, and Mariota still finds himself dealing with the expected injury that affects both the velocity with which he throws and the spin he can put on the ball.

"Honestly, it is hard," Mariota said. "The way that they explained it to me is like when you strum like a guitar string. When that string settles down, that's kind of similar to how my nerve is. My nerve's kind of been strummed, and it's going to take its time to settle down."

A week ago, both Vrabel and Mariota said they thought the quarterback would be able to play in the Titans' home opener against Houston last weekend. But the numbness and tingling in Mariota's right, throwing hand didn't ease enough late in the week.

So coaches added some wildcat to the offense with Derrick Henry, and backup Blaine Gabbert got the 46th start of his NFL career with his fourth different team. Gabbert earned a game ball throwing for 117 yards with a touchdown and no turnovers in a 20-17 win over Houston.

Mariota hasn't missed consecutive games since his rookie season when separate knee sprains cost him two games apiece. With Mariota limited Wednesday, the Titans (1-1) split the work Wednesday at practice as they prepare to visit AFC South rival Jacksonville (2-0).

"That's all you can do, is make sure to get guys ready that could play in the game for anything that may come up," Vrabel said. "Then, have to make a decision that you know is in the best interest of the team later in the week."

Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone said the Jaguars are preparing to see both Mariota and Gabbert. Mariota beat the Jaguars twice last season , and Gabbert also notched a win against the team that drafted him at No. 10 overall in the 2011 draft. Gabbert's second start for Arizona came Nov. 26, and he led the Cardinals to a win over the Jaguars throwing for 241 yards with two touchdowns and only one interception.

"We just make sure that we work on both quarterbacks," Marrone said. "Both quarterbacks have done well versus us. We know it's going to be a challenge. Gabbert beat us last year when he was in Arizona, so they have a lot of respect for both of those guys."

Whoever starts at quarterback should be helped by the return of two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan and possibly even right tackle Jack Conklin.

Lewan suffered a concussion in the season opener in Miami, and Conklin tore his left ACL in January. Both were limited Wednesday, and Vrabel said Lewan still has to be cleared by an outside doctor, which they hope happens Thursday. Backup tackle Dennis Kelly, who replaced Conklin during the opener, was not at the facility after being released from the hospital.

"That would be great to get as many guys back as we possibly could," Vrabel said.

Notes: RB Derrick Henry (back) was limited in practice Wednesday as well, along with TE Luke Stocker (calf). S Kendrick Lewis (foot), who missed the first two games, was limited in his return.

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

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Updated September 19, 2018