Derrick Henry's numbers are remarkable and to some alarming. But Henry stiff-arms the questions about possible overuse the same way he has against so many defenders over the years.
“You all keep asking about this workload stuff, I just go out and play. That is for you all to look at, I just go out there and play. I take care of my body and just be ready to play again,” Henry said.
The Tennessee Titans star, coming off a 2,000-yard season in 2020, again leads the NFL through five games with 640 yards. That's the remarkable part, a testament to Henry's ability to not only pound the ball between the tackles, but exhibit breakaway speed in the open field, plus his durability.
The alarming part to some is that Henry already has 142 carries in five games – and with a 17th game on the schedule, he is on pace to obliterate Larry Johnson's record for carries in a season. Johnson had 416 carries for Kansas City in 2006. At his current rate of 28 carries per game, Henry would have 483 carries this season.
Henry takes good care of his body, and the recovery process each week is a very important part of that. Henry usually gets a rest day from practice each week, and Thursday was his day off.
“I think it is because I know I am going to get these workload questions. I have to make sure I am taking care of my body. It is important to have my body ready each and every week. Doing everything I can to be out here, come to work every day and do what I love to do,” Henry said.
Henry said he realized that the recovery process was important when he arrived in the NFL.
“Just being around guys when I first got in the league. Seeing the success they had, see how they took care of themselves and just asking them and watching them. Just trying to implement that into mine. The great ones, they have reasons why they are the greats,” Henry said.
Henry is certainly etching his name in that company, and the Titans are using him to his full potential thus far this season. Part of that has been out of necessity, as the Titans have not been as efficient in the passing game with Ryan Tannehill taking 20 sacks already and receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones being out with injuries. So the reliance on Henry, which has almost always been option No. 1 has also become in some instances options two and three as well.
Offensive coordinator Todd Downing doesn't apologize for riding Henry as the focal point of the Titans offense.
“On Sunday when it starts to unfold, you kind of have to go with the adjustments and the hot hand. I think in New York you saw we were going to give him an opportunity to find his stride,” Downing said. “We certainly didn't want to abandon the run game at any point. That's something we're going to lean on around here. I think Derrick is one of those backs that he gets better and better as the game goes on.”
Downing added that he does not put a set number of carries for Henry in the game plan for the week, but lets the process play out in the games.
“I wouldn't say that I put a number on it throughout the week,” he said. “I have yet to have somebody on the headset say, 'Hey, he's got too many carries.' So I've mentioned this before, but Derrick is a heck of a player and a great asset for this offense, and if the best way to help our team win is to give him the rock as many times as we can, that that's what we've got to do to win.”
The Titans had A.J. Brown (hamstring), Julio Jones (hamstring) and Bud Dupree (knee) all as full participants in Thursday's practice in preparation for the Buffalo Bills. Brown was active Sunday against Jacksonville after missing one game, while Jones and Dupree have missed the past two games.
Nick Westbrook-Ihkine (hamstring) was also a full participant.
Among those who did not practice Thursday were Caleb Farley (illness), Kristian Fulton (hamstring), Derrick Henry (rest), Monty Rice (groin), Rodger Saffold (shoulder) and Teair Tart (toe).
A handful of Titans were limited, including Khari Blasingame (shoulder), Taylor Lewan (toe), Jeremy McNichols (ankle) and Chester Rogers (groin).