Typically, a star player isn’t all that jazzed about the idea of his team spending high draft capital on a guy at the same position. But, in the case of Todd Gurley and the Los Angeles Rams selecting fellow running back Darrell Henderson in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the three-time Pro Bowler appears delighted.
Actually, relieved may be a better description.
“Obviously, drafting Darrell, that was a big help for me,” Gurley told former NFL receiver turned NFL Network analyst Steve Smith on Inside Training Camp Live on Thursday. “Just to have Darrell in here, that’s going to mean a lot.”
The reason why Gurley is embracing the arrival of Henderson is that it should, in theory, lighten the workload for him. For the past three seasons, the soon-to-be 25-year-old has logged over 300 touches per-season. Even in his rookie campaign in 2015, the former Georgia product churned 250 touches. With that opportunity, Gurley has established himself as one of the league’s elite backs (and earned himself a mint $60 million deal with $45 million guaranteed to boot).
While those touches have made Gurley a rich, rich man, it’s starting to take its toll. A knee injury limited Gurley down the stretch last season. Yes, he was able to play in 14 games and notched 1,831 yards from scrimmage to go along with 21 total touchdowns, but he was a non-factor in the NFC Championship Game against New Orleans and only saw 10 carries in the Rams’ loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
As recently as this offseason, Gurley’s trainer even noted that, which is a scary proposition going forward.
Insert Darrell Henderson.
With him, the Rams are getting a back who carried the ball 214 times for Memphis during his junior season for 1,909 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also tacked on 19 receptions, 295 yards and three more scores on top of those rushing totals.
“He’s got a nice, even-keeled demeanor,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said of Henderson on July 30, via quotes distributed by the team. “You are starting to see him flash. A comfortable level, playing a little bit faster. You can feel he’s not thinking as much. It’s still early, but he has definitely shown the encouraging things that we liked so much on tape in Memphis.”
That ability to take on such a sizable workload should allow Henderson (along with Malcolm Brown) to take some of the load off Gurley this season as L.A. tries to manage him to be fresh during the winter months as the Rams hope to continue to contend for a Lombardi Trophy.
As for Gurley, he’s aware now more than ever that he needs change up his approach a bit to preserve himself down the road.
“The older you get, the more stuff in your body you start to feel,” he told Smith. “You got to start changing your eating habits, just start doing the little things, start warming up for practice a little bit more. Can’t just go out there and just go straight to practice with one little stretch. You got to start prepping your body, taking care of yourself off the field a lot more than I used to.”