NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- LenDale White, who is from Denver, plans to start at running back for the Tennessee Titans. So does Chris Brown, who held the job himself a year ago. Second-round draft pick Chris Henry also sees himself in the position.
Whoever wins the job steps into a favorable situation. The Titans had the NFL's fifth-best rushing offense in 2006. Travis Henry - now in Denver because Tennessee didn't want to pay an $8.3 million bonus - ran for 1,211 yards on 270 carries with only 13
"This guy has an opportunity to really help us win some games and do some good things for his own career, so it's going to be pressure," running backs coach Sherman Smith said Sunday.
"Whoever gets it the first week, that doesn't guarantee they have it the next week. They can't just say, 'Oh, I've got the job. I can take it easy.' You've got to perform every week, just like Travis, and Chris Brown when he was a starter, and Eddie George."
Replacing Henry, who averaged 4.5 yards and had six 100-yard rushing games in 2006, can be done. George, the team's all-time leading rusher, casts a longer shadow, with coaches remembering how he never missed practices or games.
"Who's the guy you can trust the most? The guy you know is going to do it consistently and do it the right way?" Smith said. "We don't want to separate ability from your commitment to being in shape to doing the right things. It's got to be a combination of
all of them."
When White fell to the Titans with the 45th pick in the 2006 draft, Tennessee officials were pleased, thinking they had found a running back like George to team with top pick Vince Young in the backfield.
Young far exceeded expectations, winning offensive rookie of the year and going 8-5 as a starter.
White? The running back who scored a record 57 touchdowns at Southern California didn't start once as a rookie, was deactivated for three games and had 61 carries for 244 yards. He didn't help himself after Travis Henry's release by needing to lose some extra pounds and missing a couple weeks of minicamps with a sore hamstring. He said people don't know the whole truth.
"The good thing now is everything's healthy. I'm practicing like every down is my last down, you know. I'm just playing football. ... I'm doing everything to show my teammates and my
coaches I'm in it for the battle," he said.
White's struggles prompted the Titans to draft Chris Henry out of Arizona with the 50th pick overall.
They gambled on the player seen as a combine phenom for his 4.40-second time in the 40-yard dash. He had only 269 carries for 892 yards in college, but the Titans checked him out thoroughly and believe he was hurt by coaching changes.
The Titans also signed Brown to a one-year contract, bringing him back in June even though he lost the starting job after the fourth game last season.
"I've got a lot to go out and prove to myself and a lot of other people," Brown said.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)