Springfield native Tyler Marz adjusts to life on the Titans practice squad
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It seems like Tyler Marz can finally relax after a busy spring and summer that had him auditioning for a spot in the NFL, a lifelong dream for so many but realized by so few.
The Springfield native was recently signed to the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, where he’s one of only 10 players the Titans chose to hang onto and develop after he initially did not make the 53-man roster after the final preseason cuts were announced in early September. Because he’s on the practice squad, he’s not eligible to play on game days but he’s allowed to practice with the team throughout the week.
In the NFL, teams use practice squads to keep players who have potential but need development. The practice squad gives NFL teams a chance to invest in players at a low-cost, at least by NFL standards. It also allows teams to protect players who are familiar with the scheme and system, and often times those players on the practice squad get a chance to make the team in the event of injury.
Marz signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans on May 9. After reporting to mini-camp the following week, Marz began his long offseason challenge of making the Titans’ roster, long odds for an undrafted player. The left tackle was one of two offensive lineman the Titans kept on the practice squad (center/guard Ronald Patrick was the other) when the announced the practice squad on Sept. 4.
He’s also eligible to sign with another NFL team at any time if they need offensive line help, so every week he’s still auditioning for an NFL job if Tennessee
doesn’t work out.
The final cuts
Marz survived the first round of cuts on Aug. 30 when teams were required to cut their rosters from 90 down to 75 players. He played in the final preseason game on Sept. 1 and he was cut from when the Titans had to downsize from 75 players to 53 players.
However, he had a meeting with the team before being cut and was told that the Titans were definitely interested in adding him to the practice squad. Two days after being cut, he was added to the Titans’ practice squad and he felt a great sense of relief.
“A lot of things were going through my mind, but when they cut me, they mentioned to me that they’d like to sign me back as a practice squad member,” Marz said. “I knew that things could still change or happen, but for the most part, they would be signing me back. I guess my only other hope was some other team would sign me to their active roster.”
From there, it was a quick turnaround for Marz. He was able to practice with the team immediately, but he wasn’t able to participate in any way in the Titans’ season opener against the Vikings on Sept. 11.
As a practice squad member, he was also part of the scout team, meaning he’d be emulating the opponents style of play.
His work week consists of plenty of meetings and practice. He doesn’t have much to do on the weekends since he doesn’t travel with the Titans, but he watches the games very closely and makes sure he’s always ready in case of an injury on game day or practice.
“Wednesday is a tough day, Thursday is hard, Friday and Saturday are half days,” he said. “I have all of Saturday afternoon and Sunday off. Monday we go in for a half day to review stuff but we don’t have practice.
“But I wake up at about 6 [a.m.], get in there by 6:30, they provide us breakfast and then we start up with meetings right away in the morning,” Marz said. “The offense will lift while the defense meets, and then they flip-flop. You have lunch and we’ll go out for practice for about two hours. After practice, we have another meeting to review the film and then we’re off, so we get done by 5 [p.m.] or so in the afternoon and guys go home to their families and kids.”
Having knowledge of the playbook and the other team’s offense for the scout team can be a lot to handle. Marz is beginning to become more familiar with everything on a weekly basis.
“It’s pretty overwhelming in the beginning, but once you get the basics and get the reps – you’re going to make mistakes right away, but you just try to eliminate them as soon as you can. I think that’s the thing that’s different with football, you have to be able to think on your feet during the play, because it could result in something good or something very bad.
“An average person would probably be blown away by an offensive playbook, a lot of things you try to categorize and put them together and make them simple,” he said.”
An offense similar
One of the things the University of Wisconsin prides itself on is the offensive line. The Badgers have many offensive lineman who are now in the NFL and the Badgers have always prided themselves on their running game and the Titans have committed to both the offensive line and the run game.
New running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry along with first-round draft pick and right tackle Jack Conklin and newly acquired Dennis Kelly (trade with the Philadelphia Eagles) show that the Titans would like to control the game on the ground. It’s a system that works just fine with Marz.
“We’re both pro-style offenses that want to run the ball first and then use the play action,” he said. “Actually, a lot of the stuff transferred over and I just had to change the terminology or the way we called things. By me going to a pro-style offense in college, it helped me work my way into the NFL.
“When I got here, it’s a new coach and a new GM, they really wanted to change the culture, they wanted to be more of a smash-mouth football team and that’s something Wisconsin established and had for quite some time now, so they were looking for those kind of guys,” Marz said.
He adjusted to the speed of the NFL quite well. He did notice quite a few changes from the college game to the pro game.
“It’s definitely a little bit quicker and defenders use their hands more, there’s a different element that you have to get used to and obviously you have to get better,” he said. “By playing in those [exhibition games] I got a feel of what I need to do if I have to jump in there.”
The initial shock
As someone who grew up in south central Minnesota, he was kind of in awe of seeing some of the longtime pros he’s followed since both his high school and college days.
“It’s crazy, we have Matt Cassel on the team and he was with Minnesota, I remember when he played for New England, it’s just crazy to be around these guys and see who they actually are in person,” he said. “[Quarterback Marcus]Mariota for example, he’s real hyped up, but he’s just a humble, great person. And that’s just cool to see that side and that’s how they are as people.”
The first game
It may have been a coincidence that the Titans played the Vikings in Week 1. In that game, the Titans had a 10-0 lead at halftime before turnovers cost them in the second half. However, Marz is a believer that things will turn around quickly.
“We had things going the first half, just a couple turnovers killed some drives and killed the momentum,” he said. “I think we’re going to be good, if we can just limit those turnovers, we’ll be fine and I think the first half was pretty dominating for us. I’m just excited to see how they bounce back from it.
“That’s the thing in the NFL, you can make the trades overnight and you can become a pretty good team,” he said. “It’s not you really have to develop as much as you do in college, I think we’re going be a pretty good team this year and keep building on it this year. Hopefully I can be that develops this year and hopefully next year I’ll have a shot again.”