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Henry back where he started Nearing 1,000 yards, Titans runner is content

Travis Henry could be bitter at the Buffalo Bills and what transpired in his last two seasons in the organization, and no one could blame him. Henry's career was at a crossroads in 2004 after the Bills elected to build their running game behind Willis McGahee.

Henry's production plummeted to the point that the Bills were fortunate to fetch a third-round pick from Tennessee. Now Henry is back, his head held high, desperately seeking his first 1,000-yard season since 2003. He has started looking as if he can live up to the expectations that have been tagged on him since he was a second-round pick of the Bills five years ago.

So Henry harbors no resentment toward the Bills, who host his Titans on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. But it wasn't always that way.

"It was for a little bit, but it's all behind me," Henry said. "I had great teammates there. London [Fletcher], Takeo [Spikes], Nate Clements and Aaron Schobel -- those guys who came in and a couple of guys that aren't there anymore. I don't have any bitterness to nobody because I'm still cool with those guys. The front office people that made the changes are no longer there, so I'm just happy to come back to Buffalo and play against my old teammates."

In 12 games, including 11 starts, Henry has rushed for 974 yards and seven touchdowns, showing signs that he's comfortable in the Titans' offense and with the pressure placed on him. The possibility of eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark in Buffalo excites him.

"It would mean a lot because that's where I started my career," he said. "They drafted me, and I have a lot of great memories there in Buffalo. The fans were great there."

He's rushed for 102 more yards and scored two more touchdowns than McGahee, who has started 12 games.

"[Henry] is definitely doing some of the same things he did when he was here -- breaking tackles, running people over, the stiff arm -- it's one of his best assets," Spikes said. "He's making plays for them. He's not like a bowling ball, but he's ripped up. He's very strong. He's lean. He's not a great sprinter . . . but he does everything well."

Still, Henry doesn't feel vindicated and says he has nothing to prove.

"I feel like when they drafted me they knew what they were getting when I was there," he said. "They know what I can do. It ain't no surprise. There ain't nothing to prove. They already know. I'm going to go out there and have fun and try to get a 'W.' "

Henry could have started packing his bags the day McGahee was drafted in 2003. There weren't many questions about Henry -- he rushed for 1,356 yards and 10 touchdowns in '03 -- but the Bills felt McGahee's talent was too special, too tantalizing, to take a pass. When McGahee recovered from a devastating knee injury in 2004, Henry was relegated to a backup role and ran just 94 times for 326 yards.

"When I got traded here I was disappointed on how things turned out," Henry said. "I came in and was not healthy, and I was more upset about that because I wanted to come in and make a big contribution. But it didn't work out that way. This year, we're playing good and everything's going OK, so everything is working out great."

This season could turn out to be profitable for Henry. He has an $8.3 million roster bonus in his contract due in March, so he could hit the free agent market. It's expected the Titans will make a strong push to renegotiate and keep him in the fold before the bonus is due. But that's something to worry about during the offseason. On Sunday, Henry returns home.

"You know what, I'm going to be emotional because I got drafted. . . . I was excited to be a Buffalo Bill," he said. "I wanted to spend my career out there, but that didn't happen. I'm going to be really excited to come out and see the fans and the atmosphere because I tell everybody I know that there's nothing like Buffalo Bills fans. They're unique. So I'm going to be emotional about that because that's where it all started for me."

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Fullback Daimon Shelton (head) missed practice for the third consecutive day and remains questionable for Sunday. Also questionable are Spikes (ankle), Peerless Price (thigh) and John DiGiorgio (ankle), but they all worked out Friday. Quarterback Craig Nall (flu), who missed practice Thursday, returned Friday and is probable. Tutan Reyes was still out of town tending to a family matter and coach Dick Jauron was uncertain of his availability for Sunday.

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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