NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry makes it very clear he will play Sunday against the Houston Texans with a playoff berth on the line for the Tennessee Titans.
“I love football,” Henry said Thursday. “I love playing the game, so I’m definitely ready.”
The Titans (8-7) downgraded Henry to questionable just before Houston clinched the AFC South with a win last weekend in Tampa Bay, then deactivated Henry in a 38-28 loss to New Orleans a day later. The Titans still ran for 149 yards with a group effort.
But Henry just earned his first Pro Bowl berth by running for 1,329 yards this season.
Even with being given a game off to rest a sore left hamstring, Henry still ranks third in the NFL in rushing and is tied for third in the league with 13 rushing touchdowns. The Titans are hoping he can secure the franchise’s second playoff berth in three seasons and second since the 2008 season.
Henry practiced fully Thursday, and coach Mike Vrabel said the running back looked great in Tuesday’s session before taking Wednesday off for Christmas.
“Anytime you got time to rest, it always helps a lot,” Henry said of getting a day off.
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner had said he would play even if his leg was hanging off. Asked about sitting out against the Saints, Henry inquired what Vrabel said about it. The coach said after the loss to New Orleans that it was an organizational decision to keep Henry out of the lineup.
After hearing the coach’s response, Henry said Thursday, “That’s what it was.”
Henry’s left hamstring had been bothering him for the past few weeks. He ran for 103 yards and two touchdownson Dec. 8 in a 42-21 win in Oakland despite obviously being limited by the hamstring. His longest run went for 24 yards with Henry running slower than he can. He ran for 86 yards on 21 carries Dec. 15 in a loss to Houston w ith a long run of 23 yards.
With Henry not 100%, the Titans made the strategic decision to rest Henry – and still benefitted when Pittsburgh’s loss to the New York Jets put the Titans in position Sunday to clinch a playoff berth with a win against Houston (10-5).
“I’m rested, I’m supposed to be ready,” Henry said.
Houston coach Bill O’Brien certainly expects Henry to play, though he didn’t have any expectations of what that might look like.
“We’re going to prepare like he’s going to play,” O’Brien said. “Again, our expectation is that we’ve got a really good football team coming in here. A team that’s tough, physical and very-well coached. We’re going to have to play very well to have a chance to win the game.”
Tennessee’ has tried to not to press Henry too much during practice.
“We all understand that the real test is at the game when the speeds certainly go up for every player,” Vrabel said. “I think we try to monitor what they do during practice, but then you also see the speed of every player in every position increase.”
Notes: WR Corey Davis (concussion protocol) practiced fully Thursday after being limited earlier. … CB Adoree’ Jackson (foot) did not practice along with WRs Adam Humphries (ankle) and Kalif Raymond (concussion protocol). … DL Jeffery Simmons (knee) practiced fully along with LB Daren Bates (shoulder).
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