Derrick Henry respects NFL concussion protocol despite cost to him, the Titans

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Derrick Henry rarely ever leaves the field for injury.

So when the two-time NFL rushing champ headed to the locker room on Sunday, that panicked the Tennessee Titans' fans who were flashing back to October 2021 when he broke his foot.

Especially when Henry didn't return against the Colts.

Henry was on his way to his best game this season with 102 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns when he picked up 9 yards with 11:34 left in regulation. He was pulled from the game after a helmet-to-helmet hit Henry admitted Thursday rung his bell “a little bit.”

Then the Titans lost in overtime.

Nobody was more frustrated than Henry, even as he respects the move being made for his own protection. He said he felt able to shake it off so he could return and help the Titans win.

“I think the league is trying to be cautious on head injuries and guys who stumble, which I respect,” Henry said. “It's all about player safety and those things are serious. ... So I respect that. I won't argue it. It is what it is.”

Without Henry, the Titans (4-8) missed a chance at winning consecutive games.

He now has 18 games with at least 100 yards and two touchdowns, tying Walter Payton for the fifth-most such games in NFL history. Only Jim Brown (25), LaDainian Tomlinson (25), Emmitt Smith (21) and Shaun Alexander (19) have had more.

Among active players, Nick Chubb is closest to Henry with eight for Cleveland. Since becoming Tennessee's starter, Henry has missed 11 starts — two when he was held out as a precaution.

Henry made clear Thursday he feels good.

Now Henry, second in the NFL with 841 yards rushing trailing only Christian McCaffrey, will run again in his home state of Florida when the Titans visit the Miami Dolphins (9-3) on Monday night. And he is looking forward to another game even if the Titans' record isn't what anyone on the team wanted.

“You obviously want to win, but it's still about having fun and enjoying this game and enjoying this time because we're blessed for the opportunity," Henry said.

Henry has been enjoying himself as the NFL's most productive runner since breaking out with 238 yards rushing Dec. 6, 2018, against Jacksonville. That featured his 99-yard TD run, tying the NFL record for the longest rushing TD in league history first set by Tony Dorsett on Jan. 3, 1983.

Coach Mike Vrabel said it's crazy to think that was five years ago with how well Henry continues running.

“It felt like the play lasted five years,” Vrabel said of the run where Henry stiff-armed three defenders.

"So tremendous individual effort. Great job by everybody to get involved early to get him going. And then, what he did after that was on his own. Time flies."

The two-time NFL rushing champ has 7,468 yards rushing with 71 TDs since that game. That's the best in the league in that span by a wide margin with Chubb trailing Henry by 1,651 yards rushing. Josh Jacobs is closest in rushing touchdowns with 46 — 25 behind Henry.

Henry is thankful to play this long with success he hoped for as a child.

“Just being thankful for this whole journey and just want to keep it going and be able to play as long as I can,” Henry said.

NOTES: Henry was limited for rest along with WR DeAndre Hopkins and DL Denico Autry. QB Will Levis (ankle) practiced fully. CB Kristian Fulton (hamstring) was among five who did not practice, a group that includes P Ryan Stonehouse who should be placed on injured reserve before the next game.

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