Update: Not very likely Marcus Mariota plays; Long-term health trumps tonight, as big as it is

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – ESPN reported Sunday morning that Marcus Mariota is a no-go for the biggest game of his career Sunday night, where the winner of the Colts-Titans matchup will advance to the playoffs and the loser’s season will end.

“…[O]ne source told ESPN that an independent spine specialist has warned the Titans that further damage would put Mariota's ability to throw the football at significant risk beyond this weekend,” Chris Mortensen wrote.MariotaCloseIndy

My conversations early Sunday told me the team is still working with doctors and couldn’t yet say if Mariota would play. A second person said the team will work Mariota out today. But a third finally provided confirmation that it's not very likely Mariota will play.

Titans fans need to let it sink in and move away from the idea that, if Mariota doesn’t play, a simple stinger like the one their high school football-playing son may have suffered is keeping Mariota out. [Unlocked]

Permanent nerve damage is a huge, neon, flashing stop sign. And the macho mantra that is a player can walk he can play in a game with these consequences gets tossed with such high-level risks.IMG 8218

That doesn’t mean that, in the moment, it isn’t absolutely crushing for the organization and the fan base that the organization must turn to Blaine Gabbert. It would be the third time in Mariota's four-year career that he doesn't play in Week 17.

He made a few key throws in relief of Mariota against Washington last week in a comeback win, but the Colts are a different caliber team with a different caliber quarterback. Those throws generally came when the Titans wanted to make them, not when Washington forced them to.

The Titans are also missing their very best pass rusher in Jurrell Casey (on IR with a knee injury), a physical cornerback and excellent blitzer in Logan Ryan, their top two tight ends in Delanie Walker (out since opening day) and Jonnu Smith and another rusher in Brian Orakpo (declared out on Friday).

If the Titans play Gabbert and pull an upset it’ll be thanks to an excellent game plan, executed very well.

Mortensen said the Titans have hopes that if they advance Mariota can improve and return to action. Mariota also has a partially torn plantar fascia in his foot.

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