A few Derrick Henry timelines have been tossed around since the two-time reigning rushing champion went down. The latest suggests the Titans have not given up on their impact running back returning this season.
The Titans are optimistic Henry can return in early January, Dianna Russini of ESPN.com reports (video link). Henry is rehabbing a Jones fracture, an injury that an initial report indicated would knock him out for the season. But the AFC-leading team has a Henry return on its back burner.
Henry suffered the foot fracture on Halloween, and the Titans’ ground game has declined considerably. Adrian Peterson has averaged 2.3 yards per carry in two games since joining the team, and Jeremy McNichols is in the Titans’ concussion protocol. D’Onta Foreman has perhaps looked the best of Tennessee’s backs, but the workout circuit regular-turned-emergency fill-in is at 3.7 yards per tote. The Titans have continued to win without Henry, but their Julio Jones-less offense did not have an easy day in a narrow win over the Saints.
Tennessee is 1.5 games up in the race for the AFC’s bye and has wins over Buffalo and Kansas City. A bye would certainly boost Henry’s chances of returning this season. With the NFL adding a week to its schedule, the divisional round does not begin until Jan. 22. Even if the Titans fall out of the bye position, it appears they are not ruling out Henry returning for a mid-January wild-card game. Deebo Samuel beat the three-month mark in his recovery from a Jones fracture last year. The 49ers wide receiver suffered a Jones fracture in mid-June of last year and returned for the team’s Week 4 game on Oct. 4.
The Titans have Henry signed to a four-year, $50MM extension, which runs through 2023. Despite going down in Week 8, Henry still leads the NFL with 937 rushing yards. The organization will surely weigh Henry’s long-term health into a return equation, but it appears the sixth-year vet’s rehab is going well. The Titans also may have one of their better chances to reach a Super Bowl. The franchise has not earned a playoff bye since 2008 and has ventured to one Super Bowl in its history. Henry obviously would change the team’s playoff outlook.
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