Titans star running back Derrick Henry cleared to practice

Jan 4, 2022, 7:44 PM | Updated: Jan 5, 2022, 10:40 am
FILE - Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry walks on the sideline during an NFL football gam...

FILE - Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry walks on the sideline during an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. The Titans have moved a step closer to having the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year back, opening the 21-day window Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, for Derrick Henry to start practicing. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

(AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans have moved a step closer to having the 2020 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year back, opening the 21-day window Wednesday for Derrick Henry to start practicing.

Coach Mike Vrabel said Monday a decision was expected by mid-week on Henry’s status, and the team announced Wednesday morning before practice that Henry had been activated. The next decision will be when — and if — to put Henry on the active roster.

“See how he responds and ask him to start doing some of those things he’s going to need to do in the football game,” Vrabel said Wednesday. “No different than we’ve done with any other guy who’s come back from injured reserve and as they start the return to play.”

Henry, who turned 28 on Tuesday, broke his right foot Oct. 31 and had surgery Nov. 2 to repair his fifth metatarsal. Henry was the NFL’s leading rusher with 937 yards when he was put on injured reserve, and he still ranks sixth in the league despite missing eight games.

The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry has been out nine weeks with the Titans having their bye Dec. 5. He is averaging 117.1 yards a game and 4.3 yards per carry with 10 touchdowns rushing.

The Titans (11-5) still will have to decide whether to add Henry to the 53-man roster before Sunday’s game in Houston or hold him out for the playoffs. They clinched their second straight AFC South championship last week with a 34-3 rout of Miami, and they can clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed with a win in Houston.

That would give Tennessee two more weeks for Henry to work any rust off from his injury. The Titans last earned the AFC’s No. 1 seed in 2008 and also in 2000.

Henry has 461 yards rushing with five TDs combined in his past two games in Houston. The Texans play on an artificial surface, similar to Indianapolis where Henry played his last game. Using more of the 21-day window would allow Henry to return on natural grass in Nashville for the wild-card round at worst and divisional round with the bye as the No. 1 seed.

“There’s a lot of factors that go into decisions that we make,” Vrabel said.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said the Titans would like to have him back as soon as possible.

“It’s exciting to get him back out there,” Tannehill said. “Obviously, he’s put in a lot of work to get to this point and it’s been a while. No doubt it’s exciting to get him back out there, and we’ll see what he can do.”

Tennessee has used a committee approach to replace Henry, who became the eighth man to run for at least 2,000 yards last season with 2,027 yards. The Titans currently rank third in the NFL in averaging 142.5 yards a game.

Adrian Peterson was waived after three games. D’Onta Foreman, who played six games with Tennessee last season, was signed and has 497 yards with three 100-yard games since being signed off the street Nov. 2. Dontrell Hilliard is averaging 6.2 yards per carry with 293 yards rushing and also has 18 catches for 86 yards.

The Titans also signed tight end Ryan Izzo to the active roster to help replace MyCole Pruitt, who was placed on injured reserve after a gruesome ankle injury Sunday. They signed defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand to the practice squad.

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