It is one of the scariest injuries that a professional athlete can experience, the ACL tear. Whether playing on the football field or the basketball court, it is an injury that will keep a player sidelined for many months, even in the best-case scenarios.
After showing promise during his first two years, Chargers tight end Hunter Henry was poised for a major year. However, when a preseason ACL tear caused him to miss the entirety of the 2018 regular season, his career got put on hold.
Hunter Henry’s start
Drafted by the Chargers in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Henry first made his name at Arkansas. Although he was not the full-time starter, Henry quickly proved that he was worth the early-round pick.
Eventually, he gained his spot as a starter his rookie year and had nearly 500 yards and eight touchdowns during his rookie campaign. He followed this up with nearly 600 yards and four touchdowns the following year.
Henry’s chemistry with Philip Rivers has proven valuable, and while the Chargers’ quarterback is getting up there in age, he has shown an ability to get things done with a healthy and productive team around him.
With media, fans, and fantasy sports users all expecting a breakout year, Henry’s third season was destined to be special. Unfortunately, that season didn’t happen and Henry was forced to sit out the entire year after suffering from a torn ACL in a preseason practice. The Chargers missed him, but they were able to fight their way into the Wild Card game despite missing such a key piece.
Although Gates was not a starter, he showed that he was still able to be effective, averaging 12 years a catch and catching two touchdowns off the bench.
Henry was able to return to the team for the Wild Card game, and while he was not as effective as he’s shown to be when healthy, it was a good sign for the Chargers that he was able to go into the offseason in playing condition.
The NFL and torn ACLs
Brady’s tight end, Rob Gronkowski tore both his ACL and MCL in 2014, and he was able to come back for two more Super Bowl victories before he retired.
While this is a long-term injury, it is important to know that it is one that is able to be conquered. Adrian Peterson is another great example of someone able to come back from a similar injury. Hopefully, Henry can be the next success story.
What next for Hunter Henry?
Should he be able to return to the Chargers at the same level that he was before the injury, Hunter Henry may be able to have the breakout season that he was poised to have last season. Although Antonio Gates is synonymous with the Chargers’ tight end position, he was still a role player last year, and he will not be a threat to Henry’s spot as a starter.
In a best-case scenario, Gates can turn back the clock and prove to be a valuable backup option for Philip Rivers, who will be 38 this season. With older players all over their roster, Hunter Henry and the younger players will have to step up. If they do, he could have his best season, and a valuable first step into eventual stardom.