Titans coach Vrabel reiterates Ryan Tannehill is backup

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When it comes to who's starting under center for the Titans this season, there's no tumult in Tennessee: Marcus Mariota is the starter and Ryan Tannehill is not.

That's the word from Titans coach Mike Vrabel, who reiterated this weekend that Tannehill, whom Tennessee acquired in a trade from the Miami Dolphins, won't be competing for starting snaps in training camp.

"His job as a backup -- everybody's job as a backup -- is to push the guy in front of him," Vrabel said this weekend, per UPI. "To compete and try to make yourself better and try to make the team better and see how everybody responds."

This year will be Tannehill's first as a backup QB. He was often on the bench in Miami but due to injury rather than performance reasons. Drafted by Miami eighth overall in the 2012 draft, Tannehill started 77 straight games to open his career before being felled by a torn ACL. The Dolphins, under new leadership, moved on from Tannehill this offseason, shipping him to Tennessee and replacing him with Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The former Fins starter has already said this offseason that transitioning to a backup role has been "definitely tough at times," but that he is acclimating well to taking a back seat to Mariota.

"I think there's a lot of mutual respect between us," Tannehill said in late May. "I'm going to try and help Marcus as much as I can. I think Marcus has done the same for me."

Though Mariota's starting job is not immediately threatened by Tannehill's presence, the Titans franchise QB is on a short leash this season. Mariota is entering the fifth and final year of his rookie deal without an assurance that he will get a new contract from the club.

The former second overall pick has dealt with injuries and struggled with unsteady play over the last four seasons, like Tannehill. Mariota sat out the final two games of the 2018 campaign with a stinger, ceding responsibilities to usher Tennessee into the postseason to Blaine Gabbert. The Titans couldn't get the job done, dropping their season finale to the rival Indianapolis Colts at home on "Sunday Night Football."

The trade for Tannehill seemed a direct response to the pain of last season's conclusion. Tennessee needed better Mariota insurance, for this year and perhaps a Mariota-less season in the near future, and Tannehill had the bona fides.

Tennessee is hoping Tannehill flips a switch in Mariota in the latter's contract year. But whether the presence of a longtime starting signal-caller behind a franchise quarterback like Mariota will complicate things at Titans camp remains to be seen.

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