NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans have moved a step closer to having their biggest star back on the playing field, opening the 21-day window Wednesday for running back Derrick Henry to begin practicing.
On Monday, Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel said a decision was expected by midweek on Henry's status, and the team announced Wednesday morning before practice that the two-time reigning NFL rushing champion had been activated. The next decision will be when — and if — to put the 2020 NFL offensive player of the year on the active roster.
"See how he responds and ask him to start doing some of those things he's going to need to do in the football game," Vrabel said Wednesday. "No different than we've done with any other guy who's come back from injured reserve and as they start the return to play."
Henry, who turned 28 on Tuesday, broke his right foot Oct. 31 and had surgery Nov. 2 to repair his fifth metatarsal. Henry was leading the league with 937 rushing yards when he was put on injured reserve, and he still ranks sixth despite missing eight games.
The 6-foot-3, 247-pounder, who has been out nine weeks — the Titans had their open date Dec. 5 — has averaged 117.1 rushing yards a game and 4.3 yards per carry with 10 touchdown runs this season. Henry rushed for 2,027 yards on 378 carries (5.4 average) in 2020 and 1,540 on 303 (5.1) in 2019.
The Titans (11-5) still will have to decide whether to add Henry to the 53-man roster before Sunday's regular-season finale against the host Houston Texans or hold him out until the playoffs. They clinched their second straight AFC South Division championship with Sunday's 34-3 home win against the Miami Dolphins, and they can clinch the AFC's No. 1 seed with a win in Houston.
That would give Tennessee two more weeks for Henry to work off any rust from his injury. The Titans most recently earned the AFC's No. 1 seed in 2008; they were also the top seed in 2000.
Henry has rushed for a combined 461 yards and five touchdowns in his past two games in Houston. The Texans play on an artificial surface similar to the one in Indianapolis, where Henry played his most recent game in an overtime win against the Colts and was injured. Using more of the 21-day window would allow Henry to return on natural grass at Nissan Stadium in Nashville for the wild-card round at worst and the divisional round with the bye as the No. 1 seed.
"There's a lot of factors that go into decisions that we make," Vrabel said.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said the Titans would like to have Henry back as soon as possible.
"Obviously, he's put in a lot of work to get to this point and it's been a while," he said. "No doubt it's exciting to get him back out there, and we'll see what he can do."
Tennessee has used a committee approach to replace Henry, who last season became just the eighth player to run for at least 2,000 yards. The Titans currently rank third in the NFL with an average of 142.5 rushing yards a game.
Veteran running back Adrian Peterson was waived after three games with the Titans. D'Onta Foreman, who played six games with Tennessee last season, has 497 yards with three 100-yard games since being signed off the street Nov. 2. Dontrell Hilliard has averaged 6.2 yards per carry with 293 yards on the ground and also has 18 catches for 86 yards.
In other roster news Wednesday, the Titans have signed tight end Ryan Izzo to the active roster to help replace MyCole Pruitt, who was placed on injured reserve after a gruesome ankle injury Sunday. They also signed defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand to the practice squad.
Titans outside linebacker Bud Dupree has been charged with misdemeanor assault in connection with a physical altercation at a Walgreen's hours after Sunday's victory.
Metro Nashville police detectives cited Dupree on Tuesday morning after consulting with the district attorney's office. Dupree and his attorney met with detectives that same morning.
According to the citation, a Walgreen's employee argued with some people shopping around 8 p.m. Sunday. Those people left and came back into the store with Dupree, who "then grabbed the victim and his phone", followed by the altercation before Dupree left.
Dupree is scheduled to be booked in three weeks. The 6-foot-4, 269-pound linebacker was the Titans' top free agent signee in March with a five-year deal worth $82.5 million. Dupree, who tore his right ACL in December 2020, has started five of 10 games in which he has played this season and has three sacks and a forced fumble.
The Titans issued a statement Tuesday saying they are "aware of the situation and are gathering additional information."