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Eddie George says Titans' Derrick Henry took advice to heart

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The phone call now lives on in Tennessee Titans history. A struggling Derrick Henry, failing to live up to his potential, called up the greatest running back in the team's history for advice.

It was back in 2018, before Henry exploded for 238 yards on Thursday Night Football, before he emerged as the NFL's leading rusher in 2019, before he thrived as the engine behind Tennessee's run to the AFC title game Sunday.

In a phone call this week, Eddie George reflected on his motivational words to Henry. He recalled how he implored Henry to become more of a power runner.

"He took it to heart," George told NFL.com. "He took the benefits of the philosophy, took it to heart and ran with it. In my mind, he's been a changed man."

George, who is currently in Kansas City and will serve as an honorary captain for the Titans for today's game, specifically noted how earlier in the playoffs, Ravens safety Earl Thomas recognized that the Patriots didn't want to tackle Henry.

Then when it came time, Baltimore gave up 195 bruising yards.

"It's one thing to talk about it," George said. "It's another thing to execute. I guess they didn't want any part of it, either."

It took a few games for Henry to hit his stride this season, with just one 100-yard game through October. But by then, the offensive line solidified, Ryan Tannehill had settled in at QB, and the team was off and running.

By now, he's one of the best backs in the NFL. He's also a free agent after the season -- and Tennessee is hoping to bring him back and keep the key pieces of the team together.

They could franchise tag him or Tannehill, or work out a new deal for one before the tag deadline, or transition tag one and franchise tag the other. Bottom line, they hope both are back.

And just think, in 2018, the Titans received calls from teams looking to trade for him, but ultimately nothing came close in the type of talks that often happen around the trade deadline. Interestingly, George brought up those rumors in his famous call with Henry.

"There were some trade rumors circulating about whether or not he was on the trade block," George said, "and I told him, 'Where there's smoke, there's fire. But you determine this. It's up to you. You have to run like your career depends on it, because it does.' And he was like, 'OK, I got it. I understand.' And he did."

George's main point was simple. Henry is 6-foot-3, roughly 250 pounds. People know he's fast and that he can hit the home run. But that can't be his main contribution.

And his words served as the preamble for what we've seen the last two months.

"You have to show you can convert the third-and-1, fourth-and-1 consistently, that you can be the guy to set up long runs and play bully ball," George said. "We had a long conversation about that. I said, 'You have to impose your will, let them know that I'm 6-3, 250 pounds and this is the way it's going to be for the next 60 minutes. Are you willing to deal with that?' He had to treat those first- and second-quarter runs as body blows so when you get to the fourth quarter, it's a knockout punch."

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter at @RapSheet

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