NFL rookies face year of uncertainty amid COVID-19 pandemic

Sports

Season on the Brink

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The National Football League is different from other professional sports for the sheer fact that rosters are so much bigger. That benefits lower-round draft picks and free agents, giving them a real shot at making the team, but with changes to training camps and a shakeup in the preseason, that might change this year.

Marc Mariani was selected in the seventh round by the Titans back in 2010. The wide receiver out of the University of Montana was never guaranteed to make the team, but he was guaranteed something else.

“I’m the first one to tell you if there were no preseason games, I wouldn’t have made the Tennessee Titans roster, so I feel very blessed. I was blessed to have that opportunity,” said Mariani.

But opportunities to make an impression in 2020 are limited. There were no rookie mini camps, no organized team activities and preseason games have been cancelled.

“It’s a very unique year. It’s very unfortunate for a lot of these guys free agents, late round guys and for the guys that are in camp, it will be extremely important and more highlighted than ever to be dialed in this year,” added Mariani.

And that especially goes for some of these lower-round picks. There won’t be any live game reps or joint practices to showcase their skills, but players can standout in other ways.

“If I were a young guy and I knew my opportunities were limited, I would get into that playbook. I would get into that playbook and learn my positions front to back,” said Mariani.

Former Titans general manager Floyd Reese would agree. Knowing the playbook and staying mentally ready is a big part of finding success.

“The easiest way they are going to have is going out to practice and never making a mistake, asking all the right questions. Maybe not technique-savvy, but you know when to go and how to do it,” said Reese.

It’s all about finding a way to stick out.

“If you can make a name for yourself, know the playbook and be accountable, you can have a leg up on the competition,” said Mariani.

The Titans will cut their roster down to 80 players by August 16, with final cuts being made at the end of training camp.

It’s a season of change for football. From the NFL to high school, News 2 digs deeper into the impact COVID-19 is having on the game.
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