Broncos back Henry had faith league would rule in his favor

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Broncos running back Travis Henry had an extra bounce in his step on Wednesday, even with an enormous ice pack attached to his left knee.

Henry was reveling in the ruling of his appeal of a one-year suspension over a failed drug test. He felt vindicated by the league's ruling in his favor the day before.

"When this thing was all brought about, it was like I had a 1 percent chance," Henry said. "It's like nobody gave me a chance. ... There was a lot riding on it. It feels great. I'm just happy it's over."

The NFL informed Henry in September he failed a test for marijuana. He disputed the results and sued the NFL to avoid a suspension. He contended the league violated its substance abuse policy by not allowing an expert of Henry's choosing to be present for the testing.

Henry had a hearing with the league in November and said he didn't agonize over what might happen as he awaited a decision.

"I had faith," Henry said. "I prayed about it, and I left it alone."

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan never wavered in his support of Henry. Shanahan was convinced of Henry's innocence after he passed a polygraph test and had a hair sample come back negative for marijuana.

"I'm happy for Travis," said Shanahan, whose team hosts Kansas City on Sunday. "I'm glad it's over."

This has been a rocky season for Henry. He led the league in rushing early in the year before injuries hampered him. He missed a game with sore ribs and then three more with a slightly torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Henry returned last Sunday in a 34-20 loss to Oakland, carrying the ball 15 times for 49 yards and two touchdowns. He also lost a fumble, and had another bound away when he and Jay Cutler messed up a handoff exchange.

The beleaguered back has rushed for 629 yards and three touchdowns this season. Henry boasted about gaining at least 1,500 yards when he first arrived in town last March.

"Expectations were high for me," said Henry, who signed a five-year, $22.5 million free agent contract. "I made them high for myself. It's been tough, but you can't do nothing but just go out (and play). The suspension is over with, so now I just have to get healthy and finish strong. That's all I can do."

His teammates were relieved to hear Henry had been exonerated by the league.

Not to mention a tiny bit shocked.

"No one ever beat the NFL before by appealing anything," receiver Brandon Marshall said. "So, it's a blessing. It's good for him. It's just a weight lifted off his shoulders."

And that of the Broncos. The incessant questions about Henry's appeal were a grind on the team.

"We don't have to worry about that no more," said running back Andre Hall, who's nursing a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss the Raiders game last week. "We don't have to hear our friends talking about, 'Is Travis going to be OK?' I'm tired of hearing about it. Now, I can smile and say, 'I told you my guy was going to be all right. I told you he was going to be good."'

Henry didn't dwell on what might happen as the league pondered his case. Instead, he kept his focus on recovering from the knee injury he suffered against Detroit on Nov. 4.

"I knew what I had to do," Henry said. "It's a business. People are dealing with things in everyday life, so I had to do what I had to do."

His teammates admired his ability to stay positive with his job was on the line.

"The way Travis handled it, that was awesome," Hall said. "It seemed like he wasn't worried about (the appeal) himself -- like he knew he was going to be all right. Since he hadn't done anything wrong, why worry? It was no big deal to him."

Marshall can't imagine the stress Henry was under as he waited for the ruling.

"That's something serious," Marshall said. "But that's life, whether you're a football player or an attorney or whatever you're doing. You've just got to learn how to take it all in. That's where the strong people come in."

Asked if he had a little more bounce after hearing the news, Henry broke into a grin.

"Most definitely," he said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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