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Titans' Marcus Mariota: Season opener is 'last benchmark' in return

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The preseason was important to get his feet wet, but Marcus Mariota had the Tennessee Titans' Sept. 10 opener versus the Oakland Raiders circled since the moment the NFL released the schedule.

It'll be the first regular-season game for Mariota since he broke his right leg on Christmas Eve.

"This is probably the last benchmark. This is my thing. This is what I worked for all offseason to be prepared for," Mariota said. "I can't wait. It's been a long road. I look forward to being out there and having fun."

Mariota has met every other benchmark, including running and making cuts, scrambling and getting hit hard. The regular-season hurdle will be different and special, Mariota said. It will be the culmination of six-plus months of rehab.

During training camp and preseason, Mariota's confidence in playing on his right leg has noticeably progressed. It might take a regular-season game or two for Mariota to play completely free, like he did last season, but he has shown considerable signs that he's over the injury.

He said earlier this summer he won't change his tendency to take off and run, even after the injury.

It's a little ironic that Mariota's regular-season return will coincide with that of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who is back from a similar broken fibula injury, suffered the same day.

"It's crazy how that happened," Mariota said. "It's good to see that he's come back from that injury."