Luckily for the Titans, Mariota said a neck specialist has made clear that only rest is needed — no surgery — to heal nerves frayed by injuries that knocked him out of three different games this season.
“What it came down to was just allowing time for the nerve to heal,” Mariota said Monday. “Unfortunately, I’ve had several nerve injuries throughout the course of the year, and it just left me susceptible to a bigger injury. And when it came down to it, he felt through time and some rest, the nerve should calm down and it should fully recover.”
Without Mariota, the Titans lost 33-17 on Sunday night to Indianapolis to snap a four-game winning streak and miss out on the AFC’s sixth and final playoff spot that went to the Colts. Mariota called sitting out “very disappointing.”
Mariota consulted with spine specialist Dr. Robert Watkins of Los Angeles after being knocked out of a loss to the Colts on Nov. 18 and again after suffering another stinger to the neck Dec. 22 in a win against Washington. Mariota said the specialist reviewed an MRI exam and other tests with the decision for Mariota not to play made by both the Titans and the quarterback.
“I wasn’t able to get to a point where I was ready to go,” Mariota said.
Now Mariota has time to heal, then get back on the field to prove whether he deserves a long-term contract past 2019. He already is under contract for 2019 since Tennessee picked up his fifth-year option at $20.9 million. Mariota said he’s not concerned about contract talks, saying he wants to stay with the Titans.
Coach Mike Vrabel said he has no concerns about Mariota, who completed 68.9 percent of his passes this season — a single-season franchise record.
“He helped us win a lot of games, and so I have full confidence in Marcus when he’s healthy and available to go out there and try to win,” Vrabel said. “He’s done some good things.”