NASHVILLE, Tenn. — DeMarco Murray is coming off a season where he led the AFC in rushing and earned his third Pro Bowl selection. So much for being done after a painful season in Philadephia.
Now the running back, who turns 30 in February, is facing the ultimate challenge: Time.
Murray insists he isn’t worried.
“Some of the great running backs, they played great well into their 30s,” Murray said at the start of training camp. “I pride myself on taking care of my body, not just through the season, but yearly. I know what it takes to withstand a full 16-game stretch … It’s a grind, but I enjoy it. I embrace it and I’m excited about it.”
Murray recaptured his production and running style after being traded by the Eagles to the Titans in March 2016. Murray had tried to capitalize on being named the Associated Press’ NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2014, running for a league-best 1,845 yards, by signing a five-year, $40 million deal with Philadelphia in 2015.
With the Eagles, Murray started only eight of 15 games played and ran 193 times for a team-best 702 yards rushing. Once coach Chip Kelly was fired, Murray’s contract was one of those Philadelphia unloaded.
The Titans couldn’t wait to add Murray as a running threat to help protect quarterback Marcus Mariota. Behind a revamped offensive line, Murray proved very durable, playing through a torn plantar plate in his right foot . Murray led the AFC and was third in the NFL with 1,287 yards rushing on 293 carries. It was second-most carries of his career and his second-best rushing season.
Murray dismisses questions that all those carries could add up and makes it clear he’s eager to do even more. He said he works hard this offseason in Las Vegas to make sure he’s ready.
“Very confident in my ability and my work ethic to make sure I’m physically prepared to withstand whatever they want, whatever they ask me to do,” Murray said. “Hopefully, it’s a lot more, and we’ll see from there.”
Murray did not practice Thursday with a sore hamstring that has him day to day in training camp. That gave the Titans a chance to see even more of Derrick Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner they drafted at No. 45 overall last year. Henry averaged 4.5 yards on 110 carries last season backing up Murray and also scored five touchdowns rushing.
Coach Mike Mularkey has made it clear that Murray remains the Titans’ top running back. Don’t even ask him to predict how the carries will be divided between Murray and Henry this season.
“What the numbers are this year, I’m not going to predict that because I’ll back myself into a corner with that one,” Mularkey said. “They’ll both be involved, they’ll both be effective for us. How that will be, we’ll see when we line up on Sundays.”
Murray’s success has kept Henry watching more from the sideline, and he said Henry will have a lot of success in the NFL playing for a long time. The veteran feels Henry is so good that Murray feels much more comfortable about heading to the sideline for a break when needed.
“Even in Dallas, I would always try to stay longer because I didn’t trust the second-string guy or third-string guy to come in and have a complete drop-off,” Murray said. “But for (Henry), … I know he’ll pick up the slack and do well for us. That definitely helps me mentally.”
Moving up from third in the NFL in rushing to leading the league as a team also is another goal. Only Dallas and Buffalo ran for more yards than the Titans. Murray looks at an offensive line featuring Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan, center Ben Jones and All Pro Jack Conklin and says that’s absolutely a goal.
“We want to be the most physical team ever,” Murray said.
Notes: WR Corey Davis had an MRI exam after leaving practice with a sore hamstring. He hurt his leg during a 1-on-1 drill. … Adoree Jackson, the 18th pick overall, worked with the first-team defense in one drill and promptly intercepted a pass from Marcus Mariota.
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