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  • No whammy in giving up big bucks

    Mariota says he's not worried about the risk of injury in returning to Oregon next year
  • EUGENE — Fittingly, Marcus Mariota's favorite class at Oregon last term was anatomy.
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  • EUGENE — Fittingly, Marcus Mariota's favorite class at Oregon last term was anatomy.
    Cadavers and all.
    "That was an experience in itself," Mariota said.
    Mariota not only understands the human body, he is fully aware of the financial risk involved in putting his on the line again for the Ducks in 2014.
    In deciding to return to college for at least one more season, the projected top-10 draft pick is passing on millions of NFL dollars.
    Mariota's family is currently shopping for insurance policies in the event that the unthinkable — a career-ending injury — were to occur before Roger Goodell calls his name and shakes the hand of the potential franchise quarterback.
    After the Ducks' practice on Saturday, Mariota joked that the best part of the decision is he won't have to be asked about it leading up to the Alamo Bowl.
    "Honestly, it is a relief," Mariota said. "I'm thankful to be able to kind of get that out of the way and focus on just getting better for next year as well."
    Yes, Mariota can get better.
    Despite producing 3,994 yards of offense and 39 touchdowns, Oregon's talented third-year sophomore was not one of the six players invited to Saturday night's Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York.
    Taking better care of the ball and improving his accuracy are on top of the list of things Mariota will be working on leading up to the Dec. 30 bowl game against Texas in San Antonio and throughout the offseason.
    "He can get better at a lot of things, that's the scary part about Marcus," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said of the 20-year-old star. "He still hasn't played a ton of football just because of his past and not starting until his senior year of high school. He hasn't played a ton of quarterback.
    "There's nothing more valuable as a quarterback than 11-on-11 football. You can't go to the park and meet 21 other guys and have a pick-up football game."
    Mariota said his left knee is "feeling good" and the injury, which prevented him from running the read-option in the costly November losses to Stanford and Arizona, occurred against UCLA on Oct. 26.
    "I can't really talk about those things, but it was different things," Mariota said when asked if he was injured against Washington on Oct. 12 when trainers took a long look at him on the sideline at Husky Stadium. "UCLA was kind of when it happened and where it happened."
    After Oregon's dramatic comeback victory over Oregon State on Nov. 29, Mariota and all-Pac-12 center Hroniss Grasu talked about the football future and announced their plans to return to the Ducks.
    "We wanted to come out and make the decision together. We've become pretty good friends and close friends. We wanted to make sure people knew we were doing this together," Mariota said. "Not really putting up a front, but just showing we were in this together and we supported each other's decisions and wanted to get better."
    Two Oregon juniors, running back De'Anthony Thomas and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, are still in the process of deciding whether to leave school early for the NFL. Both players are projected as early-round picks.
    "We're working on those guys. We'll see," Mariota said. "They're going to make decisions that are best for their families as well. We told them we support their decision no matter what they decide to do. And that's all you really can do."
    Mariota said Oregon's disappointing finish to the regular season was not a factor in his return and the fear of damaging his anatomy is not a strong enough reason to turn professional early.
    "For me, it was a family decision based on the fact that I wanted to get my degree," he said. "I always feel like I can get better. You want to put your best foot forward when you go into a situation like that. I feel like that I can come back and get better in that sense. "¦
    "(Injuries) are part of the game that we play. You understand that. It's not really a concern for me."
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