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Derrick Henry interview: Titans RB talks free agency, Ryan Tannehill and more

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NFL: AFC Championship-Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The KING (Derrick Henry) and I quite literally just finished discussing the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Year Awards, the $40,000 donation FedEx will be making to the USO, free agency, A.J. Brown, Ryan Tannehill and a whole lot more. You better enjoy this one! Drop a comment @JustinM_NFL.

JM: The FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Year awards recognize the top quarterback and running back performances from the 2019 NFL season. FedEx will make a $20,000 donation to the USO in the name of both the winning quarterback and running back, totaling $40,000. For the quarterback award, we have Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes. Who gets your vote?

DH: Lamar Jackson. The things he did this year both throwing and running the football are unprecedented. Those things haven’t been done in a very long time. He broke Michael Vick’s record which was amazing. He had a truly special year. He dominated throughout the entire season. I think he’s more than deserving.

JM: Would Lamar get your vote for MVP as well?

DH: Yeah, definitely Lamar Jackson (laughs). It’s self-explanatory. The things that he did this past season were just remarkable. He definitely deserves every accolade that’s coming his way.

JM: For the running back award, we have yourself, Christian McCaffrey and Nick Chubb. If you weren’t voting for yourself, who gets your vote?

DH: Both of those guys are deserving in my eyes. I can’t pick between them. I can’t choose just one from that group. They’re both special guys and they both had terrific years in my eyes.

JM: All kidding aside, FedEx is doing amazing work by donating $40,000 to the USO in such a manner. Why is this program so important to you?

DH: I’m just happy to be working alongside them with all the great things they’re doing. Donating $20,000 each in the name of the Air & Ground Players of the Year is definitely something special. Anything like this that looks out for others, I’m happy to play a role in. I’m all about a good cause.

JM: We love that. A lot gets made of running backs and how long they can maintain a high level of play. I’m curious if you’ve spoken to any running backs that have maintained success into their late 20’s and what you think the key will be for you to maintain success into your second contract?

DH: I think it just comes down to taking care of your body. Doing the right things and eating the right things so that your body can withstand the long season. Each running back that I discuss these things with, guys who have played the game at a high level for a very long time, they all tell me that the main thing they did was take care of their body. You have to make sure your body is in the right shape to handle all the carries and take all the hits you can because this position comes with taking a lot of punishment

JM: I’m curious which guys you vetted for that information?

DH: I talk to Eddie George a lot. Whenever I’m out and see guys that have played the position at a high level, these are the types of things we discuss. I do the Heisman commercials as well. I see a lot of guys there and we get to talking. We have a lot of Heisman winners at those commercials that played the running back position at a high level.

JM: Do you treat an off-season coming off almost 450 total touches differently than you did the previous off-seasons where you weren’t coming off such a huge workload?

DH: Nope, not at all. Everything I’ve done in previous off-seasons has generally worked in my favor so I don’t plan on straying too far away from those things. I believe I have good habits and workout plans that have benefited me. It’s all systems go on my end. I’m gonna continue to do what I do. I just focus on improving each and every year.

JM: Does winning the rushing title satisfy you at all?

DH: No, most definitely not. Not even close. I want the Super Bowl.

JM: One game away...

DH: Man, one game away. That’s the only thing that’s been on my mind.

JM: Right back to it next season.

DH: Yes sir, that’s most definitely the plan.

JM: How big of a role do you think the offensive line played down the stretch as the running game started to find it’s stride later in the season?

DH: A big role. A huge role. I don’t think any of those guys got enough credit. I feel like there was way too much credit shifted to me and my name. Those guys were the reason I had the success that I had down the stretch. Even the tight ends, full backs and wide receivers played a huge role in the blocking game. It definitely starts up front and they did a great job. The proof was in the results.

JM: I’m not gonna get into free agency with you because I imagine you’re tired of answering those questions already. I find that guys treat free agency one of two ways — there’s the guy that calls his agent every day asking for an update, and then there’s the guy who kicks back and tells his agent to call him when he has news. Which one are you?

DH: I’m really just taking things day by day. It’s gonna happen when it’s supposed to happen. I’m really not interested in rushing anything. At the same time, this is my first time going through something like this. You definitely wanna ask questions and be as informed as you can be. At the end of the day, it’s gonna happen when it’s supposed to happen as I said. I’m just taking things one day at a time.

JM: I love that. Should A.J. Brown win Rookie of the Year?

DH: Yes, most definitely. I think he should. No receiver was doing what he was doing out there as a rookie. The big impact that he had and the big role that he played for us, he most definitely deserves that. He was out there making plays, especially after the catch. I didn’t see another rookie performing at the high level that A.J. was playing at. Josh Jacobs is another great player and he did a lot of great things for Oakland this past season. I appreciate how he ran the ball and I enjoyed watching him make the plays that he did. He did a great job. I feel like Kyler Murray played at a high level as well. A.J. is my teammate though and having a front row seat to what he did, it was amazing to watch. He should definitely take the award home with him.

JM: That has to be a tough call for you with Josh Jacobs being an Alabama guy.

DH: Exactly (laughs). Both of those guys deserve to win that award. I wouldn’t be mad at all.

JM: I don’t know how much attention you’ve paid to this running back class, but guys like D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor and J.K. Dobbins are pretty special. Do you have a favorite running back in this draft class?

DH: I wouldn’t say that I have a favorite because I don’t really do favoritism. I think those three guys you mentioned are remarkable though. I’ve watched all three of them in college and I consider all of them to be special play-makers. They’re explosive guys that can make big plays coming out of the back-field. I’m watched multiple games from those guys. They’re definitely elite, high-level players. I wish them much success as they get ready to come into the league.

JM: There’s no doubt about that. In closing, the Titans offense absolutely exploded down the stretch with yourself and Ryan Tannehill at the helm. Both of you are set to be free agents but how exciting is the thought of you two returning to the same system next year? You’ve obviously been here but that would give Ryan a full off-season as the starter under his belt in Arthur Smith’s system. It would seem like the sky is the limit.

DH: Yeah, definitely. I’m in full agreement with you. To come as far as we did and to fall just short, I think that put the hunger in every single one of us. All of us want more. Speaking with Ryan here and there, I know he feels the same way that I do. It’s definitely an exciting possibility. We would love to build off this past year’s accomplishments.

Voting for the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Year closes at 3 PM EST today, January 30th. The winners will be announced at NFL Honors this coming Saturday. Fans can vote via a poll on the NFL Twitter page or at NFL.com/FedEx.