Derrick Henry's Foot Surgery Stalls His MVP Campaign and Titans' Super Bowl Hopes

The Tennessee Titans have not been to the Super Bowl since 1999. If a single reason existed to believe the current No. 1 seed in the AFC could make it this year, it would be running back Derrick Henry.

He again leads the league in carries and yards by wide margins. Last year, Henry was named Associated Press offensive player of the year after leading the NFL in rushing for a second consecutive season. But he injured his right foot in Sunday's win over the Indianapolis Colts, was placed on injured reserve Monday, and will have foot surgery on Tuesday, stalling the Titans' hopes of their first Super Bowl appearance in more than two decades. There is no timetable for Henry's return.

"Whenever that is that's when it'll be," Titans coach Mike Vrabel told reporters Monday. "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."

Tennessee won four consecutive games to move to the top of the AFC South largely because of Henry's work. He is almost 300 yards ahead of the second-leading rusher in the NFL. The Titans are second in rushing yards and touchdowns as a team this season. Tennessee has more rushing than passing touchdowns.

Without Henry, the path to the Super Bowl becomes much more difficult for Tennessee and more within reach for other AFC contenders.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill
Tennessee running back Derrick Henry, 22, talks with Titans QB Ryan Tannehill during the game against the Detroit Lions. Henry led the NFL in rushing the last two seasons and was on pace to do so again this year before a foot injury. Wesley Hitt/Getty

Henry had tests Monday to check the severity of the injury after he finished a 34-31 overtime win in Indianapolis. The Titans placed Henry on injured reserve Monday afternoon.

Vrabel said he knows Henry will do everything possible to work himself back to help the Titans (6-2). Vrabel said doctors will put a timeline on Henry's recovery and possible return but he won't necessarily listen to that.

The Titans have nine games remaining this season including their bye Dec. 2. The defending AFC South champs hold a three-game lead and the tiebreaker inside their division.

Henry went to the bench early in Sunday's game. He was shown on TV with his shoe off talking with trainers with 6:03 left in the first quarter before he returned. Henry finished with 28 carries for 68 yards and a 2.4-yard average that was his lowest this season. He played 54 of the 73 offensive snaps.

He did not talk to reporters after the game.

Vrabel said he thought about shutting Henry down Sunday. But he checked with the medical staff and Henry. The coach says he gives Henry a little leeway, believing the two-time Pro Bowl running back has earned the right to help make that decision.

"There was no indication that he would make anything worse," Vrabel said.

Henry leads the NFL with 937 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. He also has a league-high 219 rushes, well ahead of the next leading rusher Joe Mixon of Cincinnati (137). Henry was one off his career high with 18 receptions for 154 yards, and he threw his first TD pass in the regular season last week against the Chiefs.

"If anybody can I guess come back, it would be Derrick," Vrabel said, "but not going to put any expectations on any sort of timeline."

The Titans visit the Los Angeles Rams (7-1) on Sunday night, and now they have to look for more help at running back.

The depth chart behind Henry already was thin with the Titans putting Darrynton Evans, their third-round pick in 2020, back on injured reserve last Friday. That leaves just Jeremy McNichols and fullback Khari Blasingame with Mekhi Sargent and Dontrell Hillard on the practice squad.

The Titans were finalizing a deal on Monday to sign 2012 MVP and four-time All-Pro Adrian Peterson to the practice squad with plans to promote the 36-year-old running back to the active roster, according to a person with direct knowledge of discussions. The person spoke to The Associated Press on terms of anonymity because the Titans have not announced any deal with Peterson.

NFL.com first reported the Titans were signing Peterson.

"We've played against Adrian, and you know obviously he's got a pretty strong and solid resume," Vrabel said when asked if the Titans would work out Peterson.