How Titans RB Derrick Henry recovered from potential season-ending foot injury to return for playoffs

The Titans got significantly better during their bye week ahead of the divisional round of the 2022 NFL playoffs. Derrick Henry will be returning to action for the first time since suffering a foot injury in Week 8 against the Colts.

The return of Henry became somewhat of a foregone conclusion over the last month of the season, but at the time of his injury, his return was far from guaranteed. He was expected to miss at least 6 to 10 weeks as a result of his injury, but some reports indicated that he wouldn’t be able to return at all.

Now, Henry is ready to play and will be back in action against the Bengals. He will have a chance to key the Titans’ rushing attack during a season that saw him post the ninth-most rushing yards in the league despite missing more than half of the season.

How did Derrick Henry manage to return from his foot injury? Here’s what to now about his recovery and how it will help the Titans create one of the strongest backfield rotations among the 2022 NFL playoff teams.

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What was Derrick Henry’s injury?

Henry suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot. A Jones fracture occurs when the bottom portion of the fifth metatarsal in your foot breaks. Metatarsals make up the middle portion of your foot and connect to the toes. So, in other words, Henry broke the lower part of the middle portion of his foot that connects to the pinky toe.

The injury occurred during the Titans’ Week 8 victory over the Colts, though it isn’t clear on which play it occurred. Henry finished the game but after tests revealed the break, it was assumed that he would miss the season, as the most optimistic of timelines pegged Henry’s potential return at 6 to 10 weeks.

How did Derrick Henry recover from his injury?

Henry put in a lot of work to recover from his injury and nearly was able to meet the latter end of the 6-to-10-week timeline. The Titans designated him to return from IR before Week 18 but didn’t activate him for that contest, which would have been the 10-week mark in his return.

Tennessee likely did this with the playoffs in mind, as it bought Henry a couple of extra weeks to heal before their game as the No. 1 seed in the divisional round.

It’s also worth noting that the surgery Henry had to repair the Jones fracture was a bit different than most surgeries of that nature. Dr. Geoff Watson of the Bone and Joint Institute explained to A to Z Sports Nashville that most fractures of that nature are repaired with just a screw. Henry’s was repaired with a screw and a plate.

“He actually had a plate and screws to stabilize it, so they made a little bit bigger incision,” Watson said. “Then, they put a plate on the outside of the bone where the tension side is, and that helps to prevent that bone from capping.”

How did that impact Henry? Well, it put the six-week mark in his rehab out of reach, but it helped to further stabilize the injury and remove tension from the foot, as Watson described. The longer recovery timeline still had Henry on track for a playoff return, so it seems that the Titans had an eye on making sure his foot was fully healed before activating him.

It’s also worth noting that Henry had surgery on Tuesday, Nov. 2. That was just a day after the injury was revealed, so the Titans wasted no time getting him treatment and giving him a chance to return.

As for Henry’s rehab, coach Mike Vrabel said that Henry was “working hard to do everything he can to get back” during a late November news conference. That entailed working with Titans trainers “on a daily basis” to speed up his recovery, as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported in mid-December.

Henry wears a walking boot as a precaution when he’s away from the facility, but he’s been working with the Titans’ trainers on a daily basis. He’s remained in good spirits and part of the operation.

Suffice to say that the Titans’ plan and timeline worked for Henry. Now, they’ll have him back for the most important game of the season against the Bengals.

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Derrick Henry injury timeline

— Oct. 31: Henry suffers an apparent foot injury against the Colts. He returns to the game but racks up 68 rushing yards on 28 carries for a season-low 2.4 yards per carry.

— Oct. 31: After the game, it is revealed that Henry will get an MRI to look at his foot injury on Monday. Not much is made of these reports.

— Nov. 1: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Henry’s season could be in jeopardy as a result of his foot injury.

— Nov. 1: Reports circulate that the Titans will work out veteran running back Adrian Peterson in absence of Henry. They have just one healthy running back, Jeremy McNichols, on their roster.

— Nov. 1: Mike Vrabel confirms that Henry will be sidelined by doesn’t give an update about his timetable report. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that will be roughly 6-10 weeks, so Henry will have a chance to return if he doesn’t suffer a setback or take longer than expected to heal.

— Nov. 1: Henry is placed on IR by the Titans. This is no surprise considering that he will miss six weeks of action, bare minimum. He is technically eligible to return after three games on IR.

— Nov. 2: The Titans officially sign Adrian Peterson and D’Onta Foreman to the practice squad. 

 Dec. 12: Rapoport reports that Henry will have a chance to return if the Titans make the playoffs or face a win-and-in scenario in Week 18.

— Jan. 3: Mike Vrabel says that Henry’s practice window could open ahead of Week 18. He won’t play in that contest, as the Titans have the AFC South wrapped up, but he could return for the Divisional Round if the Titans earn the No. 1 seed. Once activated, Henry will have a maximum of three weeks to practice before he rejoins the 53-man roster. If he can’t return to form in three weeks, his season would be over.

— Jan. 5: The Titans officially designate Henry to return from IR, giving him three weeks (21 days) to be activated to the 53-man roster. If the Titans get the No. 1 seed, Henry will presumably be able to play in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.

— Jan. 18: Henry begins to participate in padded practices with the Titans. Vrabel calls it a “good step” in his recovery but wouldn’t commit to him returning to play against the Bengals.

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Titans RB depth chart

Henry will now be the lead back for the Titans once again. He figures to be the workhorse, provided that Tennessee doesn’t try to ease. him back into action, with D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard backing him up.

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