The Broncos were days away from a pivotal AFC West showdown against San Diego when news broke that Henry was fighting the NFL in court to avoid a one-year suspension because of a failed drug test.
The Broncos lost 41-3 to San Diego, their worst home loss since 1966, to fall to 2-3. Henry played despite the off-field issues and a sore knee and ankle, and had 65 rushing yards. Afterward, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Henry's troubles weren't to blame.
"I don't think it was any distraction," Shanahan said. "Obviously it's a distraction for him because he has to talk about it and I had to address it, but it was no reason for the performance we had."
That doesn't mean Henry's situation won't weigh heavily on the Broncos. Henry will continue to play as long as his case is in the courts or the NFL's appeals process. That could buy a few weeks.
Henry argued, according to court records, that his experts weren't allowed to test a "B" sample of urine. He got a temporary restraining order against the NFL from using the results of the test to suspend him, although the restraining order was lifted.
Henry was suspended four games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy in 2005. Another positive test results in a one-year suspension.
"I've been advised by my lawyer and the NFL not to discuss that matter," Henry said.
The Broncos are standing behind Henry, and think he could be vindicated when all the facts are made public.
"Nobody really knows the extent of it, as far as media and fans," receiver Javon Walker said. "Everybody on this team supports Travis and trusts Travis. It's funny how a lot of things get blown out of proportion before anybody really knows what happened. People will see."
If Henry doesn't win and gets suspended, the Broncos will be in a bind. Unless they move Mike Bell or Cecil Sapp, who played tailback all offseason, from fullback, their top two tailbacks will be Selvin Young and Andre Hall. Young was an undrafted rookie who was fifth on the depth chart for most of training camp, but made a strong push late in preseason to be Henry's backup. Hall has played in two games and hasn't played a snap on offense.
Henry has been a perfect fit for the Broncos' rushing game. He has a powerful, downhill style that suits Denver well. His 498 yards through five games are second in the NFL to Willie Parker.
But when the Broncos signed Henry this offseason, they knew he came with a risk. After about a month of the 2007 season, Henry would have been cleared out of the NFL's drug program, after two years of clean tests. Unless he wins his battle, the premature loss of Henry will be a big one for the Broncos.
--The Broncos have a few injuries, so they are looking at the bye week as a chance to regroup before the final 11 games.
"I think it's good for our players to get away for a little bit," Mike Shanahan said. "We're a little bruised right now. It gives a few guys a chance to heal up."
--Denver had two workouts this week before leaving on vacation. The players practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday before leaving. Shanahan had hinted at long practices before letting the team go after a three-game losing streak, but the workouts were pretty light.
Shanahan said that he might put the team through a long practice, like he did in 2000 after Cincinnati running back Corey Dillon rushed for 278 yards against them. He did say the coaches have to do a better job preparing the players.
"As a coach your job is to put them in all the situations as many times as you can so they don't have to think, they can react," Shanahan said. "If they don't, then it comes down to coaching. It's my job to make sure they feel more comfortable week in and week out. When you get beat like that, you didn't do a good job."
--Shanahan said he should have a better idea by midseason about the availability of receiver Rod Smith, who had offseason hip surgery and is on the Physically-Unable-To-Perform list.
"He's making strides," Shanahan said. "He's jogging. But you can see he's not in football shape yet."
BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Times the Broncos have given up 200 yards rushing in their last four games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You need the break because you've got the break. If you didn't have the break, you'd be ready to go. That's just the way it is." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, explaining if the bye comes at the right time.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The depth on the offensive line has been decimated. Guard Ben Hamilton was lost for the season because of post-concussion symptoms. Hamilton was center Tom Nalen's backup, and then Nalen was lost for the season with a torn biceps muscle. That left Denver with few options at center. Chris Myers is the logical replacement because he is the only lineman on the active roster with any experience at center. Greg Eslinger and Mark Fenton, both college centers, are on the practice squad. The Broncos could also look at free agents.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--DE Tim Crowder is still slowed a bit by a high-ankle sprain he suffered in preseason. He is playing, but the coaches can tell he's not at full speed. The bye week should help him get healthy.
--WR Glenn Martinez might have earned himself extra playing time when he got a chance to play on offense. He looked confident on offense and had a good punt return. Even if Javon Walker returns after the bye, at very least Martinez should keep his punt return job.
--G Chris Kuper will likely take over at guard, if Chris Myers moves to center as expected. Kuper doesn't have much experience but is athletic and fits Denver's offense well.
--DE Jarvis Moss will continue to get many snaps for the Broncos. The coaches like the first-round pick's progress, and have used him in a stand-up role, where he can freelance and use his athletic ability.
--P Todd Sauerbrun leads the NFL with a 51.3-yard average. Sauerbrun's previous-best season average was 49.4 yards per kick. He is also having a solid year kicking off for Denver.
INJURY IMPACT: CB Champ Bailey has a quadriceps injury. No damage was found on an MRI and the Broncos think he'll be ready after the bye. Bailey said he could have played this week.
Walker insists he doesn't need surgery on his injured right knee and the swelling and fluid aren't related to his 2005 ACL surgery on that knee. Walker hopes to play in Denver's next game.
WR Brandon Stokley suffered an apparent concussion against San Diego
but should be ready after the bye.
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