The Los Angeles Chargers were dealt a blow on the first day of OTAs as tight end Hunter Henry suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
General Manger Tom Telesco didn’t mince words when explaining how tough it is to lose Henry for the year.
“I’m not going to minimize it,” he said. “He’s a Pro Bowl talent with Pro Bowl intangibles. As bad as you feel losing him, and as bad as the fans feel about it, Hunter feels worse. This team means a lot to him, and he means a lot to us.”
At the same time, Telesco remains confident the offense will be able to move on without missing a beat.
“It’s going to be harder without him, but let me be clear, we’ll adapt and move on. Chargers fans should be very comfortable with the fact that with Anthony Lynn as the head coach and Ken Whisenhunt as the offensive coordinator, they’re both very smart, very adaptable coaches. We’ll find a way. It may be a different way than we had mapped out originally, but we’ll find a way.”
Nonetheless, big things were expected of Henry in 2018 as the 23-year old emerged as one of the league’s top tight ends over his first two seasons.
As a rookie in 2016, the 6-5, 250-pounder led the Bolts with eight touchdown catches, which was tied for most in the NFL by a tight end and tied for second in the NFL among all rookies. In addition, he caught 36 passes for 478 yards. Last season, Henry started 13 of 14 games, hauling in 45 passes for 579 yards and four TDs.
The Chargers were shocked to learn the extent of Henry’s injury.
After all, it occurred on the most routine of plays.
“Just a routine out-route by Hunter that I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times he’s run that route,” Telesco said. “He just caught the ball, cut up field and finished the route out 40 yards down field at like 50 percent speed. But he finished route, jogged back, and just felt like something grabbed at him. It’s not typical to see ACL injuries like that, but they happen all different ways. But it was a very routine, non-contact play.”
A true team player, Telesco shared how Henry feels he let the organization down.
The GM assured the third-year tight end that nothing could be further from the truth.
“He loves this team, and we love him, too. He wanted to be a part of this this year, and anytime you get hurt it’s hard to take, but this early (it’s tough). He knew he was going to be a big part of this football team. He feels like he let us down. I told him, ‘Look, you did not let this football team down. You went out there and you were practicing the way you always do. These things happen.’ But anytime a player gets hurt, they have to get over that mental hurdle, especially with an injury (in which) they’re going to miss the year. It just takes time for that. But he’s pretty strong mentally, and we’re here to support him.”
The Bolts have several tight ends on the roster, led by veteran Virgil Green who signed as a free agent from Denver in March. The team also boasts a pair of young second-year players they are high on in Sean Culkin and Braedon Bowman, as well as undrafted free agents Cole Hunt and Ben Johnson.
However, Telesco admitted the team is looking at possibly bringing in a new tight end.
“We’ll kind of look at all of our options out there,” he said. “The only positive right now for us is it’s May 23. We’ve got four-plus months before we open up. So we’ll look at all the options out there, and see where the road heads after that.”