That was the universal sentiment in the locker room as word spread that Hunter Henry suffered an ACL injury on the first day of OTAs.
“I was just hurt by it,” said Melvin Gordon. “My heart dropped.”
At the same time, as saddened as the team was to lose the tight end for a significant amount of time, they emphatically hammered home that his absence won’t change a thing.
“We can’t let this alter our plans of winning the big boy,” Gordon said. “It can’t change our goals. Obviously, we know everyone has to be sharper now with Hunter being gone. Everybody has to be more locked in. More responsible. But it doesn’t change our plans at all.”
“We’re definitely going to miss him,” echoed Russell Okung. “He has the zeal, passion and character that we want our players here to be. It’s really hard to see him go down that way. Hunter’s a big part of what we do, but he understands just like everybody else that when one guy goes down, the expectations are the next guy behind him will come out, do his job and do it well.”
A savvy veteran with Super Bowl experience, the Pro Bowl tackle reflected upon past circumstances when teams he’s been on suffered similar losses during the offseason but refused to let it derail their aspirations.
“As much as we’ll miss him, other guys will get their chance to be assessed and have their opportunity, too. Injuries are definitely part of the game. There’s not a guy who hasn’t had an injury at some type of level. But we set our expectations high. These young guys coming in, they know they’re here to compete for a job and earn a place on our team.”
As the Bolts continue to prepare for the 2018 season, they want Henry to know he’ll be on their mind. However, they want the 23-year old to simply focus on his recovery.
If the tight end needs any guidance, all he has to do is reach out to Keenan Allen.
The wideout suffered an ACL injury in Week 1 of the 2016 campaign, missing virtually the entire season. Thus, he made sure to reach out to Henry with words of advice.
“I told him it’s going to be tough emotionally,” he said. “There are going to be days you feel good, and days that you feel terrible. You’ve definitely got to work through that. This is what’s going to build your mindset and mental (fortitude).”
KA13 will also serve as inspiration as he not only returned from a similar injury, but did so with authority. In his first year back, Allen authored the single greatest season for a wideout in Chargers history, culminating with his first Pro Bowl appearance.
“It felt great and that all the work I did paid off,” he said. “And that’s what I told Hunter. Just go back and work the best way you can. Hopefully I can be that guy he can look to and see how I came back and had a good season.”
“Hunter has to look at Keenan as motivation,” Gordon added. “There are days when you’re going to be down, and you need any kind of motivation to uplift you. So having Keenan go through that, come back and do what he’s done, that’s definitely motivation for Hunter. And I told him that. I told him he’s going to come back stronger than ever.”
Glance through Hunter Henry's top photos from 2017 as he returns to the active roster ahead of the divisional round of the 2019 playoffs.