Titans sign receiver Marc Mariani as kick, punt returner
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Marc Mariani feels like he's back home again, and the Tennessee Titans feel much more confident about who's catching kicks and punts for them.
The Titans announced Monday they signed Mariani and waived wide receiver Tre McBride.
Mariani spent his first four NFL seasons with the Titans, though he spent two of those on injured reserve. He spent the last two seasons with the Chicago Bears, who waived him on Saturday. Mariani, who kept his house in Nashville, was at practice Monday and said it feels good to be back with the Titans who drafted him in the seventh round out of Montana in 2010.
''I didn't want to leave the first time, and I'm excited to be with a team and an organization that I love and that has treated me so well and also a team that I really think I can help and wants me to help and contribute,'' Mariani said. ''It feels good to be wanted down here, and I'm excited to get things rolling.''
Mariani was a Pro Bowl returner as a rookie but was on injured reserve for both 2012 and 2013. The Titans released him in the final cuts of August 2014, and Chicago signed him in November that year. Titans coach Mike Mularkey was coaching tight ends on Ken Whisenhunt's staff in 2014 and said Tennessee brought Mariani back for his return skills.
''Really it gives us somebody in both areas that we can use as a returner that has been to the Pro Bowl because of it,'' Mularkey said. ''He's had a lot of success. It was good for this team. This team is excited to have him back. I think the fans will be, as well. He's one of these guys we've been talking about - tough, dependable and team-first. He fits right in with us right away.
Mularkey said the Titans gave players chances to win the job as returner. They also released Dexter McCluster, who had returned punts, on Friday.
''We gave guys chances,'' Mularkey said. ''We attempted to develop. You can say that about a lot of guys. That's your job, and sometimes it doesn't work that way. No, I haven't given that a second thought.''
The 29-year-old Mariani has career averages of 9.5 yards per punt return and 25 yards per kickoff return. He has scored on two punt returns and one kickoff return. He also has 27 career catches, with 22 of them coming last season.
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