- Tennessee Titans’ star running back Derrick Henry will have surgery on his injured right foot tomorrow and there is no timetable for his return.
- While head coach Mike Vrabel is remaining optimistic sources suggest that Henry could be done for the year.
- Henry is leading the NFL in rushing for the Titans who are 6-2 on the season.
The Tennessee Titans are having an excellent season with a 6-2 record entering Week 9 including a defining 27-3 home win over Kansas City on October 24. They’ll have to find a way to maintain their momentum going forward without their most potent offensive weapon. NFL leading rusher Derrick Henry is scheduled for surgery on his injured right foot Tuesday and there is no timetable for his return. While head coach Mike Vrabel is trying to sound a positive tone most reports suggest that Henry could miss the rest of the 2021 season.
While there hasn’t been much clarity on the nature of Henry’s injury it appears to be a broken bone in his right foot. The two time NFL rushing champ played 54 of 73 offensive snaps against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday but was clearly not his usual self. He finished with 28 carries for 68 yards and a 2.4 yard per carry average–all season lows. He went to the bench early in the game and was shown by TV cameras with his right shoe off while conferring with the Titans’ training staff. Henry was also seen walking the sideline without his right cleat before returning to the game and playing the rest of the way.
Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel reported that Henry would have surgery on Tuesday with ‘no timetable for a return’. He expressed confidence that the double tough Henry would do everything necessary to return to action ASAP:
“Derrick’s going to have surgery in the morning and we’re not going to put a timeline on when he may return. I know that he will do everything he can to work himself back to be able to help this football team and whenever that is, that’s when it will be.”
“I know that he’ll be around our team as soon as he can. I know that’s important to him. I know that’ll be important to our team. We will have to move on. We’ll have to move on, unfortunately, without him here in the short term and not look back.”
Not that there’s ever a good time to lose the most dominant rusher in the NFL, but for the Titans the timing of Henry’s injury is particularly troublesome. Last week, they placed backup running back Darrynton Evans on injured reserve with a knee injury meaning he’s done for the season. For the moment, Jeremy McNichols is the top running back on the depth chart with Dontrell Hillard behind him. The key phrase there is ‘for the moment’ as the Titans have taken a big step in hopes of filling the void left by Henry’s injury–they’ve signed 36 year old running back Adrian Peterson who at one point was as dominant as the player he’s being brought in to spell.
How much does Peterson have left in the tank? He’s without a doubt one of the best running backs to ever play the game. He was the #7 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft and spent the early part of his career with the Minnesota Vikings where he was a beast. In 2012, he rushed for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns en route to winning the NFL MVP and NFL Offensive player of the year awards. He played 10 seasons with Minnesota rushing for 97 touchdowns, leading the league in rushing three times and playing in 7 Pro Bowls. He’s currently fifth on the all time rushing list with 14,820 yards. To put that into context, the only four players ahead of him are Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Frank Gore and Barry Sanders. Not too shabby.
What makes this a particularly intriguing signing is that while Peterson might not be the dominant force he was earlier in his career he’s still an extremely effective running back that sure doesn’t look his age. He played with Detroit last year, rushing for 604 yards and 7 touchdowns. As recently as 2018 while with Washington, he rushed for 1,042 yards and 7 touchdowns. He’s not just a once great player past his prime but a veteran who is still capable of contributing. Unlike his situations in Washington and Detroit where he did damage despite playing on hapless teams, in Nashville he’ll be on a contender with a defined role to fill.
Peterson worked out for the Titans on Monday and gave this report:
“The workout was good. It feels good to get back into football movement and to sign with a contender. We have big shoes to fill for Derrick Henry who I feel was the front-runner for MVP, but I’m looking forward to contributing to the running back room and helping the Titans to win the division and to chase the ultimate goal of winning a championship.”
Peterson isn’t kidding about the difficulty of filling Henry’s void–or his MVP pedigree. Henry was having a downright insane season at the time of his injury. He’s rushed for 937 yards and was in another area code from second place Nick Chubb with 584 yards. The yards per game shows a similar disparity with Henry putting up 117.1 yards per game to second place Chubb’s 97.3 yards per game. His 10 rushing TDs lead the league, as do his 219 attempts. As with the rushing yards, no one is even close to Henry’s rushing attempts–Joe Mixon is second with 137. Henry even has the second longest rush from scrimmage of the season at 76 yards.
The tentative plan is to sign Peterson to the practice squad with the intention of moving him to the active roster as soon as he gets in shape. Knowing Peterson’s work ethic, that won’t be long though there’s a distinct possibility that the Titans will have to play Sunday Night’s game in Los Angeles against the Rams with Jeremy McNichols carrying the mail. At BetOnline.ag, the Titans are a +8 road underdog to the Rams with the total set at 54.