Source: 'Trending' toward Tennessee Titans star RB Derrick Henry practicing Wednesday

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  • Derrick Henry
    Derrick Henry
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  • Mike Vrabel
    Mike Vrabel
    Football head coach

The Tennessee Titans’ franchise player is expected to return this week.

It's "trending" toward the Titans designating star running back Derrick Henry to return to practice from injured reserve Wednesday, a source with direct knowledge of the move confirmed to The Tennessean.

The source spoke on the condition of anonymity as the team has not made a move official. If Henry practices this week, he doesn't have to be formally designated to return until Wednesday.

"Trending that way," the source said about Henry practicing Wednesday.

Coach Mike Vrabel had indicated Monday that Henry could hit the practice field this week.

“We’ve discussed it,” Vrabel said Monday of opening Henry’s practice window. “We’ll see where it goes. He’s doing some work (Monday). We’ll see when that window opens and probably make a decision midweek.”

If Henry is officially designated to return Wednesday, the Titans will have a 21-day window to activate him. It means the All-Pro running back would have a chance to play in the regular-season finale for the Titans (11-5) against the Texans (4-12) Sunday at NRG Stadium (noon CT, CBS), where they can clinch the AFC’s top seed and first-round bye. Tennessee could also just use the week to get him back in practice and activate him in the playoffs.

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A player’s ability to protect themselves is a priority before bringing him back to the field, Vrabel has said.

“It’s critical that you have conversations with the player and find out where they’re at and where they’re at mentally and where they’re physically," Vrabel said Monday. "Always ask them to focus on things they can do and not the things that they can’t. It’s good when the head coach or position coach can know, ‘Hey, this is what we can expect from that player.’ And the player can say, ‘Hey man, I can do this. I feel like I’m comfortable doing that. I don’t think I can do certain other things.’ Now, I have to make a decision. We have to make a decision on if that will be what’s best for the team to put somebody out there at that capacity.

"If they’re full go, they’re full go and there’s not much of a decision," Vrabel continued. "But you always try to talk to the player and see where he’s at and see what his thoughts are.”

Henry has been on IR since Nov. 1, one day after suffering a foot injury in Week 8 against the Indianapolis Colts. He had surgery Nov. 2.

The reigning offensive player of the year’s return, which had been long expected for the end of the regular season or playoffs, will bring a major boost for a Titans’ offense that is starting to regain form. Star receiver A.J. Brown returned from an IR stint two weeks ago and Sunday marked the first time Tennessee had its full starting offensive line healthy since Week 14.

Without Henry, the Titans have kept the run game afloat with a committee approach at and strong run blocking from the O-line. Tailbacks D’Onta Foreman (497 rushing yards) and Dontrell Hilliard (293) have led the way. Tennessee has averaged 160.6 rushing yards per game over the last six contests.

But as the heart and soul of the team, Henry could elevate the Titans to a true championship contender in the postseason. His ability to wear out teams late in the year, when he’s played his best football, makes him one of the league’s top superstars.

Henry was in the early season MVP conversation after rushing 219 times for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns in the first eight games of the season. He’s still sixth in the NFL in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns despite missing the last eight games.

ESPN's Dianna Russini first reported that Henry is expected to return to practice Wednesday.

Ben Arthur covers the Tennessee Titans for The USA TODAY Network. Contact him at barthur@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @benyarthur.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Derrick Henry trending to return to practice Wednesday, source says

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