After missing most of the 2018 season with a torn ACL, Hunter Henry and the Chargers hoped to have the tight end on the field and healthy in 2019. Those dreams were dashed after just one game.
The team announced Wednesday that Henry suffered a tibia plateau fracture to his left knee. ESPN reported the player will miss 4 to 6 weeks.
"It's obviously disappointing," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "You hate it for him. You saw how excited he was to be out there this year and how hard he worked to get back. From an offensive standpoint, you saw how big a part of it he is and what it was going to be from last week here as the season gets going."
The Arkansas product hurt his knee during Sunday’s game against the Colts in the fourth quarter with 30 seconds left in regulation. He came back in overtime and caught a 17-yard pass from Rivers. He also delivered a key block to help running back Austin Ekeler score the game-winning touchdown.
"He's taking it tough, but he's doing fine," said head coach Anthony Lynn. "He wants to be here with his teammates. He wants to play. And not being out there with them, he feels like he's letting them down. But he's not. You can't control these things. You can only control what you can control.”
Henry tore his ACL in May 2018 during OTAs in a non-contact play. He worked his way back in time to play in the divisional game of the playoffs against the New England Patriots.
"Hunter is just a guy who loves being out there," explained Ekeler. "He’s vocal out there on the field. He’s always saying random things and just smiling. We just got him back and he fractures his knee. Hopefully it’s a clean recovery and he is back out."
The Chargers were already missing safety Derwin James, left tackle Russell Okung, cornerback Trevor Williams, and running back Melvin Gordon (hold out). Despite all the losses the team hasn’t moved off their “next man up” mentality.
"The league doesn’t wait on anybody. I don’t care what player you are, but Hunter was a big part of our offense," center Mike Pouncey said. "We are going to need guys to step up to replace his production until he gets back. I think we have enough depth at that position to get the job done."
Two of the players that will need to step up are tight ends Virgil Green and Sean Culkin, who saw a lot of work last year when Henry missed time due to injury. Last year they had Antonio Gates as their third tight end, but it doesn’t sound like that will be the case this year.
"I have not been in contact with Antonio," Anthony Lynn said. "I’m not sure what his situation is."
Lynn did state that the team will not put the fourth-year tight end on IR because they are hopeful they will get him back sooner rather than later.
Nuts N’ Bolts
• Chargers Wednesday injury report: DNP (did not practice): CB Mike Davis (hamstring), TE Hunter Henry (knee), DE Isaac Rochell (concussion), S Roderic Teamer (hamstring), WR Mike Williams (knee). Limited Practice: K Michael Badgley (right groin), LB Jatavis Brown (ankle), WR Geremy Davis (hamstring), LB Denzel Perryman (ankle).
• Lynn did say he was concerned for receiver Mike Williams availability on Sunday due to the knee injury and they will monitor him during the week.
• Punter/Kicker Ty Long named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, a career first. Long made three extra point attempts and a 40-yard FG. Long became the first player since Olindo Mare in 1997 to make a field goal, extra point and punt in career debut. Long also averaged 49 yards a punt.