Around the NFL  

 

Chargers TE Hunter Henry 'ready' to fill Gates' shoes

Print

With the Los Angeles Chargers saying goodbye to future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates, the team is officially passing the torch to Hunter Henry.

The third-year tight end understands he's under pressure to fill big shoes.

"When I came in, it can be an intimidating thing when you come into that situation -- a Hall of Famer, first ballot, and one of the greatest tight ends of all time [playing with you]. So, it can be intimidating, but he took me under his wing and taught me everything he could these past two years," Henry said of Gates, via the L.A. Times. "It's been incredible. He's still a great friend of mine. I talk to him. I was with him a couple of weekends ago. It's been really cool to be able to play with him these past two years.

"But definitely, I'm ready to step up. ... I'm ready to go."

The transition from Gates to Henry has been in the making since the Chargers used a second-round pick in 2016 on the Arkansas product. Last season when L.A. upped Henry's playing time over Gates, the Chargers' offense found an extra gear.

Henry played in 14 games in 2017, 13 as a starter. Tilts in which he played 41 or more snaps, the Chargers went 7-1 and averaged 26.6 points per game. In games in which he played 40 or fewer snaps, L.A. went 0-6 and averaged 16.3 points -- including an 0-4 start to the season.

The promising tight end's ability to separate from linebacker and beat up defensive backs over the middle of the field brings a dimension to the Chargers' offense that became lacking as Gates lost footspeed.

Henry's 2017 campaign ended early with a lacerated kidney. The 23-year-old said he's now healthy, running during the team's workouts, and ready for his increased workload.

"That kind of injury is really tough. It's a freak injury. I felt like I took care of myself really well last year, and to have something like that happen, where I have to miss games for something I can't control, it's really hard to take," Henry said. "It's something where I can't push my rehab to try and get back on the field and something I can't play through because I kind of look at myself like, if it's an injury, I feel like I can play through it. I just kind of have that tough factor about me. But with something internal, it's hard. You can't play around with that."

With Gates' Chargers run over, it's now Henry's turn to try to become the next great tight end in franchise history.

Print