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Derrick Henry to His Doubters: 'Tell Them to Keep Watching'

RB Derrick Henry
RB Derrick Henry

As running backs in their mid-20s flew off the free agent market, 30-year-old Derrick Henry waited.

It seemed like fate that the Ravens and Henry would end up together. It almost happened at last season's trade deadline. Henry was already picturing it last season, thinking about what life would have been like and how good the Ravens would have been had he been traded to Baltimore.

It seemed everyone in the NFL media landscape wanted to see Henry land in Baltimore, salivating at the possibility of watching him team up with Lamar Jackson.

The NFL marketplace didn't know or care about all that. Money talks, and in a free-agency cycle in which everybody rushed to get their guy, 10 players were scooped up before Henry, who had more rushing yards than all of them last season.

Henry doesn't hold any ill will. He was glad to see other running backs get paid.

But there's no doubt that Henry's age, his workload, or both, contributed to his market. Henry said the Ravens and Texans, who only "poked around a little bit," were the teams that pursued him (not the Cowboys).

So what does Henry tell those who think he doesn't have much left in the tank?

"Tell them to keep watching," he said with a smirk Thursday at his introductory press conference.


590: Derrick Henry on Which Teams Pursued Him, Switching Sides of a Rivalry, Joining Forces With Lamar Jackson

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Henry is a modest guy. It's only first impressions, but he doesn't seem like someone who beats his chest screaming at the doubters.

But he did say that he'll use the narrative that running backs turn into pumpkins once they turn 30 years old as motivation.

"We all know it. Once you get up in age at this position, those questions are going to come because of what history shows," Henry said on "The Lounge."

"But at the end of the day, it's about how you feel and how your body feels. I feel great. I don't feel any different, and I can't wait to show that when the opportunity comes."

Nobody has more rushing yards than Henry since he came into the NFL in 2016. He had the second-most rushing yards last season with 1,167. He's topped 1,000 rushing yards in five of the past six seasons, including one 2,000-yard season in 2020.

The question is whether Henry will continue to put up those numbers in Baltimore. The Ravens believe so.

"He's kind of a unicorn, to be honest," General Manager Eric DeCosta said. "[With] his combination of speed, power [and] durability. He's thrived in different systems and done different things. He's won wherever he's been, and those kinds of guys are rare. We've had some here in Baltimore. They are just different from everybody else, and I think Derrick is a good example of that." 

There are 14 players in NFL history who have posted multiple 1,000-yard rushing season after turning 30 years old, led by Walter Payton with four.

Among the 14 is Fred Taylor, who had two post-30 1,000-yard seasons for the Jaguars while Henry was growing up near Jacksonville. Henry also said he grew up watching, then playing against, players he looked up to such as Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson.

There's also Mark Ingram II, who the Ravens signed five years ago. Another Alabama product, Ingram posted 1,018 rushing yards in his 30-year-old season, helping the 2019 Ravens become the AFC's top seed before they were bounced by Henry's Titans.

Henry said he's done research and had conversations with players who have been in the game a long time. Generally speaking, it's about self-maintenance.

"Really, I think it's taking care of your body, doing the things you need to do to get your body prepared, year in and year out, week in and week out and every single day, making sure that you're at your best, can perform at your best [and] creating good habits with eating healthy," he said.

Henry said he's grateful to have played eight years at running back in the NFL, especially at such a high level. But he doesn't see the end closing in.

"I look forward to more years for sure," he said.

Asked if the best, or somewhere close to it, might still be on the way considering the added boost Henry will get from Jackson's presence, the Ravens' run scheme, and a potentially better offensive line, Henry said he does see it that way.

"But I definitely know it's going to take a lot of hard work," he said. "Everything looks good on paper, but you've got to put the work in to make it come to life. That's all I want to do."

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