Derrick Henry hopes to make a triumphant return as the top-seeded Tennessee Titans host the upstart Cincinnati Bengals in an AFC divisional playoff game in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday.
The Titans officially activated Henry on Friday after increasing his workload throughout the week.
"I'm happy to be back," Henry said. "You definitely appreciate this game a lot more when you are away from it, being away from teammates and just having that camaraderie and going to work every day and playing on Sundays each and every week. I definitely missed that."
Henry will play for the first time since sustaining a fractured right foot on Oct. 31. Before the injury, the bruising back led the NFL with 219 carries for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Henry would love a repeat of his 2019 performance in the playoffs, as he became the first player in NFL history to rush for 175 or more yards in back-to-back games. He participated in a padded practice Tuesday and said Wednesday he plans to contribute, but to what degree remains uncertain.
"Whatever I can do to help, I am always for it," Henry said. "... I am ready to go out there and play."
Whether it's Henry receiving the full workload or sharing it with D'Onta Foreman, the Titans face a stern test against the Bengals' fifth-ranked rush defense (102.5 yards per game). Tennessee received a boost from Foreman (566 rushing yards, three touchdowns in nine games) to finish the regular season with the fifth-ranked rushing offense (141.4 yards).
"I think we kind of stuck to our guns, and I think the stats will show that," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "We ran the ball really well, even with Derrick out.
"If he is back (for Saturday), it'll be nice to have him back. But I feel like we've stuck to our guns and our game plan and we can insert him back in."
The threat of a viable play-action passing game should benefit Tannehill (3,734 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, 14 interceptions), who endured a statistically mediocre season at best.
A.J. Brown was Tannehill's most trusted target with team-leading totals in catches (63), receiving yards (869) and receiving touchdowns (five) despite playing in just 13 games. The Titans have posted an 11-2 record in games in which Brown has played.
Tennessee rested last week with the No. 1 seed in the AFC, while the Bengals outlasted the Raiders 26-19 in the wild-card matchup in Cincinnati.
On the opposite sideline resides confident second-year quarterback Joe Burrow, who set franchise records in passing yards (4,611) and touchdown passes (34) this season while completing an NFL-best 70.4 percent of his attempts. Burrow fired two touchdown passes in his first career playoff start last weekend, leading fourth-seeded Cincinnati past the Raiders.
Considering Burrow is no stranger when it comes to competing for championships, a wild-card victory wasn't the end-all, be-all for him.
"I tried to downplay it and all that because this is how it's gonna be from here on out," Burrow said. "It was a great win for us. But now this is the standard for the bare minimum every year going forward."
Rookie Ja'Marr Chase had nine catches for 116 receiving yards in his playoff debut to help the Bengals secure their first postseason win since the 1990 season.
The Burrow-Chase connection has helped Cincinnati average a league seventh-best 27.1 points per game. Tennessee, in turn, finished sixth in scoring defense (20.8).
Bengals standout defensive end Trey Hendrickson's availability for this weekend had been a question mark after he sustained a concussion in the second half against the Raiders. But he was a full participant in Wednesday's practice and was cleared from the concussion protocol on Thursday.
Hendrickson finished fifth in the NFL with 14 sacks en route to earning his first Pro Bowl selection. His career-best total topped the 13.5 he had in 2020 for the New Orleans Saints.
Bengalswide receiver Stanley Morgan (hamstring) was limited in practice all week and is listed as questionable.
Tennessee defensive lineman Teair Tart (ankle) is questionable after all taking part in limited practice this week. However, cornerback Janoris Jenkins (ankle) returned to full practice Thursday and is expected to play.
--Field Level Media