By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Pro Football Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Derrick Henry has a basic approach to backing up a Pro Bowl running back in DeMarco Murray with the Tennessee Titans.
Feel, and work, as if he is a starter in the NFL.
Even if he did happen to win the Heisman Trophy in 2015.
"It was different coming off the year that I had in college coming in being the second guy," Henry said. "But it was a growth year, an experience year, helped me learn a lot. Prepared me for this year to get better."
Henry had quite an adjustment from college to the NFL. He went from setting both the Alabama and Southeastern Conference rushing record with 2,219 yards and racking up a bunch of awards and accolades to Tennessee where he started only two games as a rookie while Murray led the AFC in rushing. Henry carried the ball 110 times for 490 yards, his fewest rushing attempts in a season since his freshman year at Alabama.
The rookie did run for five touchdowns and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. He also caught more passes in his first NFL season (13 for 137 yards) than in his last season at Alabama (11).
Titans coach Mike Mularkey says Henry had an impressive offseason, which has carried into training camp with how hard the running back has worked. Henry also knows both the system and the offensive line better. Murray remains ahead of Henry on the depth chart.
"There is no pitch count of who's going to get the ball, that won't happen," Mularkey said. "We're not going to force feed it to one guy or another. I would think if he had the same amount of carries his production would be significantly even better because of all of the things I just mentioned."
Henry missed the first two weeks of the Titans' voluntary offseason program in April while he finished up some classes at Alabama. He also stayed busy working out. He said he wanted to take the mindset of trying to be better in all aspects of his game.
"I was always training, working out hard, just trying to do anything I could do to make sure that when I come back, I'm better than I was last year," Henry said.
The 6-foot-3 running back who is listed at 247 pounds believes he's in better shape than he was as a rookie.
"I know the offense pretty well," Henry said. "Just trying to get out here, fly right, get better every day. Help my teammates get better and compete."
Henry started Tennessee's 7-3 loss to the New York Jets to open the preseason with Murray recovering from an injured hamstring. Henry ran eight times for 29 yards and also caught a pass.
So far, training camp practices is where Henry has taken advantage of opportunities to show off his hands.
Henry went up in the air and beat a defensive back for a pass from Marcus Mariota early in camp. Henry credited an offense trying to get the ball into the hands of players who can make plays.
Mularkey called Henry's play a bit "unique."
"Obviously, you don't see that every day, but again that's kind of the trust factor Marcus is going to throw it up there and has a guy that has the ability to make a play like that and did," Mularkey said. "Who knows if that doesn't happen sometime later?"
Notes: With long snapper Beau Brinkley nursing an injured groin from the preseason opener, the Titans signed long snapper Ryan DiSalvo on Monday and waived kicker/punter Jordan Gay. DiSalvo was an undrafted college free agent who was waived by Miami after training camp last year.