Occupied by injuries and lawsuit, Henry still intends to play
Proclaiming himself sufficiently recovered from the knee and ankle injuries that kept him out of practice for much of the week, Broncos tailback Travis Henry, who is facing a one-year ban from the league for a repeat violation of the substance abuse policy, said Friday that he intends to play in Sunday's game against the Chargers.
"I'm going to play Sunday," Henry said after Friday's practice, the only session in which he participated all week.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan also said that, barring any physical setback, Henry will be in the lineup against San Diego.
The NFL's leading rusher through the first four weeks of the season, Henry sprained his right knee and right ankle in last week's loss at Indianapolis.
Both Henry and Shanahan declined to discuss reports that the veteran tailback has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block the league from testing a so-called "B" sample that is standard for positive drug tests.
League sources said Friday that it could be two to four weeks before the matter is resolved. During that time, it is expected that Henry will continue playing.
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The issue being challenged by Henry is that the NFL would not allow his expert to observe the testing of the "B" sample. Although the collective bargaining agreement permits a player to have an expert present for testing, league vice president Greg Aiello said that expert cannot be affiliated with any laboratory.
The expert presented by Henry, Dr. William Closson of Long Island, N.Y., did have such an affiliation. The league provided Henry with the names of 10 independent experts as reference for his potential use.
In an affidavit filed by Henry on Sept. 18 as part of his court action -- it was obtained by the New York Daily News -- he stated: "There is no valid reason why any unlawful substance would be in my urine. This must be a mistake."
Henry also noted in the affidavit: "If I fail this test, I will be suspended for one year from my employment, and will be obliged to repay all signing bonuses paid to date. ... I will be prejudiced if my expert cannot observe these tests."
Henry, 28, signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract with the Broncos in March, only days after his release by the Tennessee Titans (the Titans did so to avoid paying him an $8 million roster bonus). The deal included a $6 million signing bonus to be paid in three installments and he has received $2 million of that.
A seventh-year veteran, Henry has rushed for 433 yards and one touchdown on 86 carries in the first four games of the season.
For his career, the former University of Tennessee star has carried 1,407 times for 5,828 yards and 35 touchdowns in stints with Buffalo (2001-2003), the Titans (2004-2006) and the Broncos. He was the Bills' second-round choice in the 2001 draft and was traded to the Titans in 2004.
The top backup to Henry, as listed on the Denver depth chart, is rookie Selvin Young, an undrafted free agent who has logged 15 carries for 138 yards. Also on the roster is second-year veteran Mike Bell, who rushed for 677 yards and eight scores in 2006, but who is currently listed as a fullback and who has only five carries in 2007.
While Henry intends to play this week, Shanahan said that wide receiver Javon Walker, who is battling a knee problem, will not play against the Chargers.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.