Broncos better off without Henry 

Sometimes in the sports world, bad news can be good news.

So it was this week as the Denver Broncos, obviously meaning head coach Mike Shanahan, decided to give up on running back Travis Henry. No trade for a future draft pick. He's just gone.

That's bad news, because at his best, Henry obviously meant a lot to the Broncos. We only have to remember last season, when the talented but enigmatic veteran was the NFL's leading rusher until leg injuries slowed him and eventually took him out of the picture.

But that has been the 29-year-old runner's story line practically since he came out of the University of Tennessee. He had speed, power and excellent instincts, but he was injury-prone. As the years slid by, character issues dogged Henry more and more, such as the Denver Post revealing Henry had fathered nine children by nine different women and was proud of that fact.

Denver obviously had counted on him somehow coming back from his latest injury, a persistent hamstring problem, or Shanahan surely would have taken a more aggressive approach to the recent NFL draft. Henry had willingly renegotiated his contract, which usually buys a longer leash of goodwill. But at some point, the Broncos training staff must have determined he wasn't pushing himself hard enough to rehab and recover.

There was a time when any NFL team, including Denver, would've given a player such as Henry until training camp to be ready. But those days are gone. Now the offseason drills are much more important, especially for a team trying to reverse its fortunes after missing the playoffs two straight years. Players prove their dedication and do a lot of learning now, so that training camp becomes more about polishing units and developing continuity.

Henry never would have been more than a source of distraction and frustration. That was inevitable, so it's good news to dump him now.

Almost certainly, there's an underlying message here. Shanahan and his offensive staff must feel very good about Selvin Young, the second-year runner out of Texas who finished his rookie season with a team-high 729 yards, including two games of 100-plus yards. Young reportedly has been looking sharp, and stronger, during offseason workouts, obviously good enough to warrant handing him the starting job now heading into preseason. But at 5-foot-11, 207 pounds, he doesn't seem big enough to be an every-down back.

That's why the Broncos signed veteran free agent Michael Pittman from Tampa Bay. He could start or be the third-down guy, but he should be useful and productive, as well as durable.

The guess here is that discarding Henry also means Denver's coaches already like what they see in Ryan Torain, the overlooked rookie from Arizona State, drafted in April's fifth round. Torain, who turns 22 in August, is bigger than Young (6-1, 222) and is an explosive, punishing inside runner. He missed the last half of his senior college season with foot problems, but as a junior he ran for 1,229 yards and made the Pac-10's all-conference second team (not bad in that league).

Torain looks like yet another underestimated (by the experts) runner who could stand out in Denver's system, following the example of Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis and, yes, Young.

Of course, most of them enjoyed running behind one of the NFL's best lines. Young, Pittman and Torain will have blockers who are inexperienced and evolving. We'll have to see how that works for the entire offense.

Without Travis Henry, though, that offense has a better chance.


Sports Shot

Save the date Air Force's Troy Calhoun, Colorado's Dan Hawkins and more head coaches, including CC's Bob Bodor, will speak at the Sports Corp's football kickoff luncheon at noon, June 25 at the Olympic Training Center. Tickets are $25 and $30; call 634-7333.
Bad sign He didn't get the job, but you have to wonder why Colorado (and former Air Force) basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik was trying so hard to become the Chicago Bulls' head coach after just one year in Boulder.
On the air Can't miss Big Brown trying for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. on ABC, post time about 4:30.
Not far away Denver Broncos will start training camp sometime around July 25 less than two months away, and their preseason opener is Aug. 9 at Houston.


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