Hunter Henry

West Notes: Fitz, Wilson, Henry

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald did not announce that he would return for the 2018 season until mid-February of 2018, and it appears that we could have a similar wait in 2019. Fitz told ESPN’s Adam Schefter earlier this week that he would take some time to collect his thoughts after a difficult 3-13 season, but that the team’s recent hiring of new head coach Kliff Kingsbury would not sway him one way or another. If Fitz does decide to play, he would technically be eligible for free agency, but it is impossible to imagine him playing for a team other than Arizona.

Now for more from the league’s west divisions:

  • This probably doesn’t mean much, especially in light of last week’s reports on the matter, but Kingsbury has said that he would consider drafting Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray with the Cardinals‘ No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, per ESPN’s Sam Ponder (via Twitter).
  • The Seahawks are set to begin contract negotiations with quarterback Russell Wilson, and in a piece that is well-worth a full read, Joel Corry of CBS Sports says that Wilson’s new deal will pay him at least $35MM per year.
  • After being activated on Monday, Chargers TE Hunter Henry is expected to play in the team’s divisional round showdown in Foxborough this afternoon, per Albert Breer of SI.com.
  • We heard yesterday that Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell will be a top target of new Broncos coach Vic Fangio, and Mike Klis of 9News tweets that Donatell is currently deciding between staying in Chicago or following Fangio to Denver.
  • Former Buccaneers defensive line coach Brentson Buckner will join the Raiders in the same capacity, per Greg Auman of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina will not be returning to the team, per Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio (via Twitter).

Chargers To Activate TE Hunter Henry

The Chargers have officially activated tight end Hunter Henry to the 53-man roster. He’ll eligible to play on Sunday against the Patriots, just eight months after tearing his ACL. To make room for Henry on the active roster, the team placed linebacker Jatavis Brown, who went down with an ankle injury in the team’s Week 17 win over the Broncos, on injured reserve. 

Monday was the deadline for Los Angeles to activate Henry thanks to the 21-day window that opened when he resumed practicing. If he was not activated, the third-year tight end would have been forced to spend rest of the season on the PUP list. The good news is that Henry was not held out of Saturday’s game against the Ravens due to any setback. Instead, the Chargers simply decided to play it safe with one of their star offensive players.

Assuming he’s fully healthy, or somewhat close to it, the Chargers are expected to get Henry involved in the passing game. The Bolts could exploit the Patriots’ weak coverage across the middle of the field and give their D something extra to think about in addition to their other aerial weapons and Melvin Gordon‘s slick running.

After hauling in 81 catches for 1,057 yards and 12 touchdowns through the first two seasons of his career, Henry was primed for a breakout campaign in 2018. His offseason injury robbed him of a chance to truly shine in the regular season, but he’ll now have an opportunity to contribute when it really counts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Rumors: Broncos, Crennel, Rhule, Henry

Mike Munchak is once again a popular head coaching candidate, with at least four teams interested in his services. But we heard last night that Munchak has strong interest in the Broncos‘ opening, and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) reports that Munchak has emerged as the early favorite for that position. Helping the Broncos’ cause is the fact that Munchak has family, including a granddaughter, in the Denver area.

Now for more rumors and rumblings from the AFC:

  • The Broncos are blocking other teams from interviewing senior personnel adviser Gary Kubiak for offensive coordinator jobs, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Kubiak wants to remain in Denver anyway, but he has expressed interest in returning to the sidelines as an OC, and the Broncos would like him to serve in that role under whomever they hire as their next head coach (assuming that person is comfortable with such an arrangement). The Bengals and Falcons had requested interviews.
  • Texans free agents-to-be Kareem Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu want to be back in Houston next year, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. There has been no word on whether the Texans will move to re-sign Jackson, but the team does want Mathieu back, as we learned yesterday.
  • Romeo Crennel is expected to return as the Texans‘ DC in 2019, per head coach Bill O’Brien (via Wilson on Twitter).
  • The Jets have interest in interviewing Baylor head coach Matt Rhule for their own HC vacancy, and Rich Cimini of ESPN.com suggests that Gang Green will get an interview with Rhule (Twitter link). The team is in Dallas interviewing Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard today, and Albert Breer of SI.com believes New York brass could interview Rhule while they’re in Texas (Dallas is about 90 minutes from Waco).
  • Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers should be able to land a lucrative free agent deal this offseason, but since he is not a prototypical speed-rushing DE, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com believes it is difficult to pin down what his value will be on the open market. Reiss suggests Flowers could return to New England after testing the free agent waters.
  • The Chargers will remain without tight end Hunter Henry for today’s playoff bout in Baltimore, but if LA wins today, Rapoport says that Henry will be activated tomorrow in the hopes of suiting up against New England next week.
  • Rapoport reiterates that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will not be back in Baltimore next season, but Flacco (unsurprisingly) wants to continue his playing career, and Rapoport suggests that he will get an opportunity as a starter (video link). The only real question is whether Baltimore will be able to trade him or if the club will be forced to cut him.
  • In addition to Flacco, the Ravens will need to decide what to do with impending free agent C.J. Mosley in the offseason. It would probably be unwise to sink too much money into an inside linebacker who struggles in coverage, but Mosley’s leadership abilities for a defense that could be losing a number of key veterans will certainly be a factor in contract negotiations, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.

Hunter Henry Won’t Play Vs. Ravens

Hunter Henry received first-team reps this week, but the Chargers evidently have not seen enough to send their top tight end back into action.

They will not activate Henry from the PUP list Saturday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). This will keep Henry sidelined for the Bolts’ first-round matchup against the Ravens. Henry could still be activated for the divisional round if the Chargers advance, but for now, Antonio Gates and Virgil Green will continue to be Los Angeles’ main tight ends.

Los Angeles has until Monday to activate Henry, because of the 21-day window that opened when he resumed practicing. If that does not happen, the third-year tight end must spend the rest of the season on the PUP list.

Henry did not experience a setback, per Rapoport (on Twitter). Instead, the Chargers are being cautious and extending this as long as possible.

Henry is attempting to make it back from a torn ACL less than eight months after the injury occurred. Expected to be a key component of the Bolts’ passing game, Henry went down in late May. He’s been rumored to be a potential X-factor for the Chargers in these playoffs, but the opportunity for that to occur is dwindling.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Rumors: Raiders, Chargers, Broncos

The 49ers aren’t the only club with interest in former Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, as the Raiders also want to speak to the ex-Indy exec about a front office role, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). Oakland is rebuilding its front office after firing general manager Reggie McKenzie and top lieutenant Joey Clinkscales. Grigson would join a front office that now includes first-time GM — and former NFL Network analyst — Mike Mayock, who was hired earlier this week. The 46-year-old Grigson was fired by the Colts in 2016 after a tumultuous five-year term as GM, and has since worked with the Browns and Seahawks’ front offices.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • Two of Sean McVay‘s top assistants will take their interviews with the Bengals on Friday. Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor and pass game coordinator/tight ends coach Shane Waldron will meet with Cincinnati ownership tomorrow, tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. Nearly every candidate in which the Bengals have expressed interest thus far have come from the offensive side of the ball, with the only exception being former Broncos head coach (and ex-Cincy defensive backs coach) Vance Joseph. The Bengals were turned down by Josh McDaniels, but they’ve also asked to meet with Bucs OC Todd Monken and Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, among others. Bieniemy’s interview with the Bengals — originally scheduled for Friday — will now take place on Saturday, tweets Pelissero.
  • After being designated for return from injured reserve and participating in seven-on-seven drills at the end of December, Chargers tight end Hunter Henry took first-team snaps in practice this week, Los Angeles announced. However, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn still declined to commit to Henry playing against the Ravens in the first round of the NFL postseason, as Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com tweets. If Henry does play, he’ll be on a “pitch count,” meaning fellow tight ends Antonio Gates and Virgil Green will still see time. Henry tore his ACL in May, but Los Angeles held out hope he’d be available if the club made it to the playoffs.
  • Rams center John Sullivan collected a $1MM bonus by being active for at least 15 games and Los Angeles ranking as a top-five scoring offense and making the playoffs, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Sullivan, 33, actually started all 16 games for the Rams in 2018, and has started 31 contests since joining the club last offseason. LA’s line was elite in 2018, finishing No. 1 in adjusted line yards and No. 6 in adjusted sack rate, but Sullivan graded as just the NFL’s No. 32 center, per Pro Football Focus. The Rams hold a 2019 option on Sullivan which would pay him $1.75MM in base salary in addition to a $2.5MM roster bonus.
  • Currently being run by a trust headed by team president Joe Ellis, the Broncos are in need of a permanent owner. That’s likely to eventually be Pat Bowlen‘s youngest daughter, Brittany Bowlen, tweets James Palmer of ESPN.com, who notes Brittany will join the organization “at some point.” Bowlen, 28, could potentially take over in 2021 after a new collective bargaining agreement is put into place, speculates Mike Klis of 9News.
  • 49ers left guard Laken Tomlinson suffered a torn MCL on Sunday, according to a team announcement. That’s relatively good news since the longtime starter was carted off of the field, leading to fears that he had suffered a torn ACL. Tomlinson will not need surgery, so he should be good to go for offseason activities. Tomlinson is under contract with San Francisco through 2021 thanks to the three-year, $18MM extension he signed last summer.

Injury Notes: Brown, Wallace, Berry, Bolts

As the Steelers enter their must-win (plus-help-required) Week 17 scenario, their best player is not certain to be available. Antonio Brown missed three practices this week and is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Bengals. The four-time All-Pro is undergoing tests on his injured knee, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. Brown has not missed a game this season. While Pittsburgh would be favored to beat Cincinnati at home without Brown, two-time reigning AFC North champions have not exactly been bastions of consistency this season or in recent years. The Steelers can clinch their fifth straight playoff berth with a win and a Ravens home loss to the Browns.

Here’s the latest on the injury front, shifting to one of Brown’s former teammates:

  • Although the Eagles surprisingly brought Mike Wallace back onto their 53-man roster without the usual IR-return practice routine, the deep threat will not play against the Redskins on Sunday. Philadelphia declared Wallace out because of his ankle injury, making the team’s move to activate him strictly for the playoffs. To make the playoffs, Philadelphia needs to beat Washington and have Chicago stop Minnesota. Wallace is not signed past this season, so it’s now possible he will end his Eagles tenure having played in only two games.
  • The Chargers are assured of a playoff spot, making a possible Hunter Henry cameo more likely. It might occur as soon as next week. Tom Telesco did not rule out his top tight end being ready to return before a possible wild-card game, per Eric Williams of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Henry participated in seven-on-seven drills with the Bolts on Friday, Williams tweets, doing so after being confined to individual work last week. The Chargers designated Henry to return from IR on Dec. 17, so they have until the divisional round — if their season extends that far — to make a call on Henry.
  • Eric Berry cannot shake his troublesome heel ailment. The three-time All-Pro Chiefs safety continues to battle this issue, Andy Reid said, via the Kansas City Star’s Brooke Pryor (on Twitter). Berry has been on a snap count (99 in two games) since making his season debut in Week 15, and Reid did not commit to Berry playing Sunday against the Raiders.
  • Ahead of the Texans‘ pivotal Week 17 game, Lamar Miller will return. Bill O’Brien said his top running back is “good to go” against the Jaguars. Miller missed much of the past two games with a sprained ankle. The Jags are unlikely to have Leonard Fournette available, with the second-year back listed as doubtful.

Chargers Designate Hunter Henry For Return

The Chargers officially activated the 21-day practice window for tight end Hunter Henry. Henry has been out all year with a torn ACL, but he has a chance to return for the Bolts’ playoff run. 

Henry’s odds for actually making it back on to the field remain to be seen. ACL tears call for a lengthy and arduous recovery and Henry is only eight months removed from the injury. In November, the prospect of a Henry return was reportedly viewed as a “long shot.”

After hauling in 81 catches for 1,057 yards and 12 touchdowns through the first two seasons of his career, Henry was primed for a breakout campaign in 2018. Initially, the team planned to forge ahead without Antonio Gates and truly give Henry a chance to sign, but Henry’s injury brought the veteran back into the fold.

Gates, 38, has had a quiet year thus far with 25 catches for 312 yards and two touchdowns, though he ranks as the No. 10 tight end in the NFL, according to the metrics at Pro Football Focus. Blocking specialist has seen roughly twice as many snaps as Gates, however, and has even less offensive production to his credit. Still, even without Henry as their main tight end, the Chargers have managed an 11-3 record.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers TE Hunter Henry Could Still Return In 2018

Chargers tight end Hunter Henry, who suffered a torn ACL in May, still has a chance to return to the field this season, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. While a Henry comeback is a still considered a “long shot,” the third-year pro could give the Los Angeles offense a boost as the postseason nears.

This isn’t the first time a potential Henry return has been discussed, as reports as early as August suggested Henry could be available late in the 2018 campaign. Clearly, Los Angeles wouldn’t bring Henry back unless it had a legitimate shot at the postseason, and following a 5-2 start, the Chargers certainly have that. Per FiveThirtyEight.com, Los Angeles has a 75% chance of earning a playoff berth, although it will almost assuredly be as a wild card team given the success of the AFC West-leading Chiefs.

Henry is currently on the non-football injury list, but because he’s already been sidelined for an NFL-mandated six games, he’s eligible for activation at any time. Per Schefter, Henry has not suffered any recent setbacks while both running and squatting, and Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said Henry has “looked a lot better than I thought he would.”

The Chargers could certainly use Henry, as they’ve received virtually nothing from their current stable of tight ends. Los Angeles re-signed franchise icon Antonio Gates prior to the season and he leads the club’s tight ends in both receptions (12) and yards (123), while Virgil Green is pacing the Chargers’ tight ends in snaps.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Broncos, Bosa, Henry, Seahawks

Yesterday, 28-year-old Brittany Bowlen publicly confirmed her interest in one day becoming the Broncos‘ controlling owner. As Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets, however, Bowlen’s interest had been known for some time, yesterday just marked the first time she went public with her feelings. Jhabvala also confirms that, if Bowlen does not become the controlling owner, the Pat Bowlen Trust will likely sell the club to an outside buyer.

Now let’s take a look at some more news and notes from the league’s west divisions:

  • Chargers DE Joey Bosa will make his debut on November 4 against the Seahawks, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. That is the return date that the team has been targeting for some time, and Bosa will obviously provide a huge boost to the team’s pass rush and playoff aspirations.
  • The news is not as good for Chargers TE Hunter Henry. Although there was some hope that Henry could return to the field this season, despite the fact that he tore his ACL in May, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports that the odds of that happening are quite slim.
  • La Canfora confirms a report from earlier this week that the Seahawks will eventually be sold in the wake of Paul Allen‘s death. Allen, who has no heirs and who did not intend to pass on the team to a specific person, did make plans and stipulations just the same. The NFL is reserving comment at this time and will allow the Seahawks to make Allen’s plans public when they choose to, but sources expect that the transfer of the team — likely for a price exceeding $2.3 billion — will take a similar course as the eventual sale of the Bills after Ralph Wilson‘s passing. In that case, Wilson had put a framework in place for the Bills to remain in Buffalo, and the team was ultimately sold to Terry Pegula, who already had strong ties to the region.
  • 49ers sixth-round draft pick Marcell Harris was cleared to begin practice this week, the team announced, making him eligible to return as early as Week 9 against the Raiders. The strong safety was placed on IR after the team’s final cutdown, but the team left open the possibility that he could play this year. The Niners must activate him before Nov. 7 for him to be eligible to play. If he does play this year, it will snap an inactive streak that has been ongoing since he suffered a torn Achilles at Florida.

Ben Levine contributed to this post.

Latest On Chargers TE Hunter Henry

Less than four months after tearing his ACL, Hunter Henry is already taking major steps in his recovery process. Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News writes that the Chargers tight end was seen “sprinting with a large brace” on Friday. This comes after Henry participated in a light workout with his teammates.

After hauling in 81 catches for 1,057 yards and 12 touchdowns through the first two seasons of his career, Henry was ready for a breakout campaign in 2018. With Antonio Gates out of the picture, the 2016 second-round pick was ready to become one of Philip Rivers‘ favorite targets in the passing game. Unfortunately, the 23-year-old suffered a torn ACL during a non-contact play on the first day of the Chargers’ organized team activities. It was assumed at the time that Henry would have to sit out the entire 2018 campaign.

That still might be the case, but Henry seems to be recovering quickly. While head coach Anthony Lynn noted that the tight end “took it to another level” this past week, general manager Tom Telesco previously cautioned that it was more likely Henry returned in 2019 than 2018. Henry is currently sitting on the PUP, meaning he could be activated after sitting out the first six weeks.

The team also seen speedy ACL recoveries in the past. As Wang points out, pass rusher Melvin Ingram returned to the field six months after suffering the injury in 2013. That’s usually the minimum recovery time required for a torn ACL, and it’s not uncommon to see players sit out 12 months. Either way, considering the progress Henry has already made, the tight end could logically return to the field before the end of the regular season. At the very least, it’s telling that the organization hasn’t completely rejected the idea.

The Chargers ended up re-signing Gates to pair with Virgil Green and Sean Culkin. If Henry returns, he’d slide into a lethal offense that also includes running back Melvin Gordon and wideouts Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.