NASHVILLE – Derrick Henry’s participation was limited during the first week and more of the Tennessee Titans’ training camp. His commitment did not.
Coaches are aware of the physical toll of two seasons as the NFL leader in rushes and rushed yards could have faced him, which is why much of his activity so far has been confined to individual exercises and to work with an assistant coach or trainer.
That’s not to say he hasn’t been put to work. The Titans have found other ways to make sure Henry participates in the daily workouts.
“We’ve kind of started calling him ‘coach’ now because he’s back with a script, and he calls all the games and he helps me replace the guys,” the running backs coach said. Tony Dews Friday. âSo that keeps him involved in the practice. And then it’s my sneaky little way of helping him keep growing on offense because now he’s calling for formations.
ââ¦ It keeps him involved. It allows him to watch and see what’s going on, and he can also coach these guys when they come off the pitch. “
Henry is not the only member of the Titans whose activity during the early days of the camp was closely watched and moderate. The same goes for wide receiver Julio Jones before he was injured earlier in the week, as well as players like tackles Taylor Lewan and Ty Sambrailo, whose injuries cut short their 2020 seasons.
Henry’s absence from many drills gave players such as second-year running back Darrynton Evans, veteran substitutes Brian Hill and Jeremy McNichols, and a rookie like Mekhi Sargent more opportunities to show off what ‘they can do. It also gave the two-time racing champion a new perspective on things.
“I think he handled the situation,” said coach Mike Vrabel. âHe stays in shape. Work hard. We’re asking anyone who may not be in training, who may have a different plan, to work as hard, if not harder, than the guys over there. I think it’s a matter of respect. If I was a player and looked over and saw a guy with flip flops, I probably wouldn’t react too favorably.
Henry has recorded 681 ground attempts in the past two regular seasons, 129 more than any other player. Dalvin Cook of Minnesota is next with 562.
Henry has added 101 more races in the last two playoffs. That’s a total of 782 rushes, which is more than any running backs other than Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott in the past three regular seasons combined.
Once again, Henry will be the centerpiece of the Tennessee offensive. Ultimately, therefore, teammates and coaches will look to him to carry the load, not a practice script.
“When he comes back and we go with him, we’ll see where he’s at,” Vrabel said. “And I know he’ll be ready to go when we need him.”
He might even have new ideas on how to do his job.