Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry has made it very clear he will play Sunday against the Houston Texans with a playoff berth on the line for the Tennessee Titans.
“I love football,” Henry said Thursday. “I love playing the game, so I’m definitely ready.’’
The Titans (8-7) downgraded Henry to questionable just before Houston clinched the AFC South with a win last weekend in Tampa Bay, then deactivated Henry in a 38-28 loss to New Orleans a day later. The Titans still ran for 149 yards with a group effort.
But Henry just earned his first Pro Bowl berth by running for 1,329 yards this season.
Even with being given a game off to rest a sore left hamstring, Henry still ranks third in the NFL in rushing and is tied for third in the league with 13 rushing touchdowns. The Titans are hoping he can help secure the franchise’s second playoff berth in three seasons and second since the 2008 season.
Henry practiced fully Thursday, and coach Mike Vrabel said the running back looked great in Tuesday’s session before taking Wednesday off for Christmas.
“Any time you got time to rest, it always helps a lot,” Henry said.
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner had said he would play even if his leg was hanging off. Asked about sitting out against the Saints, Henry inquired what Vrabel said about it. The coach said after the loss to New Orleans that it was an organizational decision to keep Henry out of the lineup.
After hearing the coach’s response, Henry said Thursday, “That’s what it was.’’
Henry’s left hamstring had been bothering him for the past few weeks. He ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns on Dec. 8 in a 42-21 win in Oakland despite obviously being limited by the hamstring. His longest run went for 24 yards with Henry running slower than he can.
He ran for 86 yards on 21 carries Dec. 15 in a loss to Houston with a long run of 23 yards.
With Henry not 100 percent, the Titans made the strategic decision to rest Henry — and still benefitted when the Steelers’ loss to the Jets put the Titans in position Sunday to clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Texans.
“I’m rested, I’m supposed to be ready,” Henry said.
Houston coach Bill O’Brien certainly expects Henry to play, though he didn’t have any expectations of what that might look like.
“We’re going to prepare like he’s going to play,” O’Brien said. “Again, our expectation is that we’ve got a really good football team coming in here. A team that’s tough, physical, and very well coached. We’re going to have to play very well to have a chance to win the game.”
Landry details injury
Jarvis Landry has been plagued by hip pain since the Browns reported to training camp in late July.
The Pro Bowl receiver revealed the origin of his injury on Thursday.
Landry said he was diagnosed with a fractured bone at the base of his spine early in the summer, limiting his practice time throughout this season and potentially requiring surgery to correct the problem.
“Just talking to the doctors and the early scans from OTAs, I began with a fractured sacrum, and then from there everything else just kind of started going bad,” the 27-year-old said.
“My hip has been bothering me since then and it’s definitely been a battle. I wouldn’t say it’s gotten worse — I’d call it nagging — but it definitely is not getting better.”
The sacrum consists of two vertebrae that form a large triangular bone at the bottom of the spine, acting as a wedge between the hip bones. Fractures are typically accompanied by significant pain.
Landry has played in all 15 games, leading the team with 81 receptions, 1,092 yards receiving, and five touchdown catches. He earned his fifth Pro Bowl selection in six seasons — two straight since joining Cleveland in a 2018 trade with Miami.
The most important number to Landry, however, is zero. The Louisiana State product has never missed a regular-season game and intends to extend his streak to 96 in a row when the Browns play at Cincinnati in their finale Sunday.
“We owe it to each other to go out there one last time for this season and compete to win,” said Landry, who walked around the locker room with a pronounced limp. “The work we’ve put in together, collectively as a group, we owe it to each other.
“I think doing the right things throughout the week has allowed me to get to Sunday and just give the best that I have.”
Falcons rookie banned
Falcons rookie cornerback Jordan Miller was suspended for four games without pay for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Miller, a fifth-round draft pick out of Washington, will miss the season finale Sunday at Tampa Bay and the first three games of 2020. He was inactive until Week 5 and has played mostly on special teams, logging 23 defensive snaps in 10 games.