As expected two-time NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry returned to the practice field for the Titans Wednesday in Nashville.
Henry is officially still on injured reserve but was designated to return by the team 9 weeks after suffering a broken foot in Indianapolis.
Head coach Mike Vrabel stayed low key in talking about the return of the Titans most dominant player “Just to see how he responds and ask him to start some of these things he is going to need to do in the football game. No different than what we have done with any other guy that has come back from the injured reserve and as they start their return to play.”
What does he need to return to play though? Does he just need to be healthy? Is he in “football” shape. Is he mentally ready to move on? They are all big questions as Henry looks to make his return. “I think we will try to do everything we can for the players that are coming back to try to recreate, to give them the confidence and the trust that they can go out there and do their job.” Vrabel said, “We try and do that with every player that is returning.”
Even after missing 8 games Henry is still 6th in the NFL with 937 yards rushing this season. His 117 yards per game though remains tops in the league.
The Titans have continued to run the football without him. They have had two games where they rushed for over 200 yards and they rushed for 198 last week against Miami. D’Onta Foreman has come in and rushed for over 100 yards three times.
Here is the craziest stat, with Henry they averaged 4.3 yards per carry and without him they have averaged 43. yards per carry.
Titans safety Kevin Byard tried to keep that in perspective when talking about Henry’s return, “I mean it’s great. I don’t know how much of a psychological boost it’s going to be because you know we’ve been having a lot of success running the ball, but obviously having the king back will be great for everybody and great for our offense as well, especially how defenses are going to try to defend us.”
Ryan Tannehill has as much to gain as anyone with Henry’s return to the field. Henry can slow down pass rushers and open up gaping holes in the play action game. “I mean we’d like to get him back as soon as we can.” said Tannehill, “We’ll see when that’s going to be. He has to work thru some things and get ready to go but, excited for the steps that he’s taken and the work he’s done to get to this point.”
Still most do not expect Henry to play Sunday in Houston and this remains a very important game for the Titans who lock up the top seed in the AFC, home field advantage and a first round bye with a win. That is what was first and foremost on the mind of offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, “Derrick being out there, it’s nice because of the special player that he is and when he’s out there playing in a game we’ll be very lucky to have him, but for right now we have to focus on this game, this week.”
The Titans are a 10.5 point favorite to beat the Texans and finish the regular season 12-5.