NASHVILLE – Derrick Henry spent 81 days on injured reserve.
The end came Friday when the Tennessee Titans officially returned him to their active roster, one day before their divisional playoff contest against the Cincinnati Bengals at Nissan Stadium. It followed three weeks of practice sessions, which he negotiated without incident, and one week of playoff games, which the Titans sat out by virtue of their status as the AFC’s No. 1 team.
Medical personnel are convinced it was enough time for Henry to recover from surgery to repair a broken foot.
The question is whether it was too long for him to immediately regain his role as the centerpiece of Tennessee’s offense.
“I would think anybody who hasn’t played in two months would feel pretty good about their body and where they are at,” Henry said this week. “… It was the first time that I got injured during the season and had to miss the rest of the season. It was definitely different. A little adversity, but glad I was able to get through it.”
Much attention will be paid to how many carries he gets Saturday. Some believe Henry will have a limit to ensure there is no risk he will do too much too soon. Others feel the philosophy will be that if he is healthy enough to get on the field at all, he is healthy enough to stay on it for as many snaps as necessary.
For now, all that is certain is that Henry has put up some huge numbers in recent seasons. Here is a look at some as an indication of what his return means to the Titans:
2 – rushes of 40-plus yards during the 2021 regular season. Only Indianapolis’ Jonathan Taylor had more (five). Five others also had two. Henry’s 76-yard touchdown run against Buffalo was the third-longest in the NFL this season. Taylor had two that covered more ground.
3 – games with three or more rushing touchdowns. Henry did it in a span of five weeks with three touchdowns each against Seattle (Week 20), Jacksonville (Week 5) and Buffalo (Week 6). There were only four other players who had at least three rushing touchdowns, and none did it more than once.
10 – players in franchise history who have thrown a touchdown pass in the postseason. Henry is one of them – and the only running back. His 3-yard toss to wide receiver Corey Davis early in the third quarter gave the Titans a 21-6 lead over the Baltimore Ravens in a 2019 divisional playoff contest, which Tennessee ultimately won 28-12.
11 – 200-yard rushing games in the NFL since the start of the 2018 season. Henry has five of them (five of the top eight, to be exact). He is the only one during that span with at least 200 rushing yards and four touchdown runs in the same game (vs. Jacksonville, Dec. 6, 2018).
17 – times over the past 20 seasons a player has had 150-plus rushing yards in the playoffs. Henry has done it three times and has two of the top four performances. His 195 rushing yards against Baltimore two years ago ranks third, one spot ahead of the 182 had a week earlier against New England. He also had 156 in his first playoff game, a wild card victory at Kansas City following the 2017 regular season.
34 – rushing attempts in the 2019 wild card victory over New England. That is the most by any NFL player in the postseason over the past 15 years. Six times during that period a back has had 30 or more rushes in a game. Henry has two, the other being a 30-carry performance against Baltimore the week after his busy day against the Patriots.
467 – total yards in the three 2019 playoff games. That is second-highest total for a single player during the Titans era (1999-present). The only one with more was Eddie George, who had 521 during Tennessee’s run to Super Bowl XXXIV. George had four games as did third-place Leonard Fournette (448 for Tampa Bay last season) while Henry hit his mark in just three contests.
670 – rushing yards in six career postseason games. That leads the league since the start of the 2017 playoffs, when Henry made his NFL postseason debut. Only two other players, Leonard Fournette (542 yards) and Sony Michel (455 yards), have as many as 400 postseason rushing yards over the same span.
937 – rushing yards by Henry in the eight games he played this season. He finished ninth in the NFL in that regard and was one of eight players with at least 10 rushing touchdowns. His 219 rushing attempts ranked 11th.
5,563 – rushing yards since the start of the 2018 season. That is the most by any player in the NFL over the past three years and an average of 101.1 yards per game. Henry’s 55 rushing touchdowns in the least three years also lead the league. Cleveland’s Nick Chubb is second in yards with 4,816, Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook is second with 39, and Indianapolis’ Jonathan Taylor is second in yards per game at 93.1.