Broncos' Henry optimistic for Sunday return vs. Oakland

Updated: November 29, 2007, 5:40 PM ET
Associated Press

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Broncos running back Travis Henry is excited about the thought of a 20-carry game Sunday.

He's just hoping his knee shares his enthusiasm.

"I feel good enough to play," said Henry, who partially tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. "If they need me to [carry it 20 times], I'll man up and do it. My knee feels real good."

Henry and rookie Selvin Young (knee strain) both practiced Thursday and Broncos coach Mike Shanahan is optimistic they'll play Sunday at Oakland.

Andre Hall, though, remains a question mark. Hall suffered a high ankle sprain last weekend against Chicago on his first carry, but he persevered through the pain to finish with 98 yards on 26 carries.

However, he walked with a noticeable limp Thursday.

"Maybe I can go," said Hall, who planned to test the ankle more thoroughly on Friday. "But you have the two-headed monster back so everything is OK."

Henry has missed the last three games because of the knee injury he suffered at Detroit. He said the extra rest has rejuvenated him.

"I'm pumped up about it," said Henry, who's rushed for 580 yards this season.

Henry was mum on his ongoing battle with the league. The beleaguered back is fighting to keep the NFL from suspending him over the results of a drug test. He had a hearing with the league a few weeks ago in Phoenix and is still waiting to hear back.

If he's unsuccessful, Henry faces a yearlong suspension.

"I don't know nothing," Henry said after practice Thursday.

A league spokesman had no additional information to report on the hearing.

Shanahan was just happy to see his top two running backs on the field again at the same time.

Young even dropped back and returned some kickoffs at the conclusion of practice.

While Young's knee isn't 100 percent, he said it's good enough to play.

"I'm ready to go," said Young, who's third in the league with a 5.1-yard rushing average. "This is a grueling position. You have to understand pain. Everybody is hurt."

Broncos running backs coach Bobby Turner has developed a keen eye for uncovering unheralded tailbacks.

His talent, though, has been put to the test this season. But no matter who the Broncos insert into the backfield -- like undrafted free agents Young and Hall -- the production hasn't dipped.

Young filled in nicely when Henry went down, and then Hall picked up the slack after Young got hurt.

Denver is averaging 148.3 yards rushing a game over the last three contests, best in the league over that time frame.

"In classic Denver fashion, here's two undrafted free agents that they just plug them into the system and here they go," Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said.

It's because Turner knows precisely what he's looking for in a tailback -- toughness. Hall showed his tenacity by playing through a sprained ankle.

Then again, Hall had no choice but to carry on -- the Broncos were almost out of options. Henry and Young were both inactive for the Bears game, and Mike Bell fumbled on his only carry of the contest.

Hall said that Young and Rod Smith -- who's out for the season with a hip injury -- gave him all the incentive he needed.

"Selvin and Rod said, 'We need you to push through it,'" Hall said. "After every possession, Rod would come and say, 'We appreciate it.' That makes you feel good."

The positive reinforcement worked better than any cortisone shot could have.

"It really did," Hall said with a grin. "I got energy."

The fact he played through a bum ankle gives Hall hope he'll be ready Sunday.

"I think I can go," Hall said. "I'm going to get my job done, no matter if I have to suck it up for four quarters with a sprained ankle. That's what I'm going to do."

Henry had the same attitude.

"In this league, you're never 100 percent healthy," he said. "I have to suck it up."

Henry refuses to wear a knee brace to protect the knee. He's not the least bit worried about the knee ligament possibly tearing more than it already has.

"That's the game," Henry said. "I feel good enough to play. I ain't even thinking about the what-ifs."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press