The Tennessee Titans pulled out a last-second 34-31 overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, but they lost their most potent offensive weapon in the process.
After reports on Monday morning that star running back Derrick Henry may have suffered a season-ending foot injury during Sunday's game, head coach Mike Vrabel came out and confirmed essentially the worst-case scenario: Henry will have surgery on his foot.
— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) November 1, 2021
Notably, Vrabel didn't say the surgery was season-ending. He didn't give a timeline for Henry's return, but said it's possible that he could return later this season. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the typical timeline for this kind of surgery is 6-10 weeks.
Mike Vrabel: “Absolutely there’s a chance” that Derrick Henry returns to play this year. Titans have a 3-game AFC South lead with a win in hand over 2nd place Colts so if they can hold on to the division maybe there’s a chance for a King Henry playoff run.
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) November 1, 2021
Vrabel didn't give much away when talking about how the Titans will move on without Henry, but he did imply that he'll be doing what many teams have done: rely on more than one running back to run the ball.
"Not ready to commit to anything, to a wholesale change. There are a lot of teams that rely on multiple backs to run the ball in their scheme." - Mike Vrabel on what's next for the #Titans
— Mike Giardi (@MikeGiardi) November 1, 2021
Losing Henry is a major blow for Titans
Henry left the game during the Titans' second offensive drive. He gingerly walked off the field, then received medical attention on the sideline and was walking around without his right cleat for awhile. He came back in for the Titans' next offensive drive and ended up playing the rest of the game, but it was clear he wasn't right. With just 68 yards on 28 carries, it was his worst game of the season.
Regardless of whether Henry returns at the end of this season or in 2022, it's a major blow for the Titans. Henry leads the league in rushing yards (937), rushing yards per game (117.1), and rushing touchdowns (10). He's certainly not responsible for all of the Titans' offense, but he plays an outsized role.
Derrick Henry has handled 219-of-230 running back rushing attempts for the Titans this season.
He has 353 more rushing yards than any other player in the NFL.
He has a league-high 10 rushing touchdowns.
Just a devastating blow if he is out all year.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 1, 2021
Rushing yard leaders this season:
🥇 Derrick Henry - 937
🥈 Derrick Henry after contact - 728
🥉 Jonathan Taylor - 649 pic.twitter.com/eziK3m2vrF
— PFF (@PFF) November 1, 2021
Henry is a dominant force. No matter how long he's out, the Titans will have to find a way to stitch things together because there's simply no replacing him.
Adrian Peterson to step in?
There's no replacing Henry, but the Titans will definitely try. Adrian Peterson is reportedly flying to Tennessee to meet with the Titans on Monday, and is expected to work out for them this week.
Adrian Peterson is traveling to Nashville today to meet with the #Titans, per source. With Derrick Henry slated to miss time, Tennessee looking for help. Peterson, 36, is NFL's fifth all-time leading rusher, has stayed in excellent shape.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) November 1, 2021
The #Titans are expected to work out veteran RB Adrian Peterson this week, sources say, in the wake of the Derrick Henry foot injury. Tennessee could replace the MVP candidate with one of the greatest running backs of all time.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 1, 2021
Peterson is 36 and last played in 2020 for the Detroit Lions. He's one of the greatest running backs of all time and according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, "has stayed in excellent shape." While he's not as sharp as he was in his prime, he still rushed for 604 yards and scored seven touchdowns over 16 games with the Lions.
He may still have enough left in the tank to help the Titans, and his veteran presence would likely be very helpful among the team's depth chart running backs, who could be pressed into service as the Titans figure out how to operate without Henry.
A look at the Titans' running back depth chart behind Derrick Henry:
Jeremy McNichols: 56 career carries
Dontrell Hilliard (practice squad): 22 career carries
Mekhi Sargent (practice squad): 2 career carries
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 1, 2021