Hunter Henry out with knee fracture, Chargers mum on potential Antonio Gates reunion
Jason B. Hirschhorn
The Los Angeles Chargers entered the 2019 regular season without their top running back and left tackle. After one game, the offense has also lost its No. 1 tight end. On Wednesday, the Chargers announced that Hunter Henry suffered tibia plateau fracture in his left knee during Sunday's victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The team has not set a timetable for his return.
Though the Chargers funneled their offense primarily through running back Austin Ekeler and wide receiver Keenan Allen, Henry had an active afternoon against the Colts, catching four of his five targets for 60 yards. It remains unclear exactly when Henry suffered the tibia plateau fracture, though he has dealt with other knee injuries in the recent past. Henry missed all of the 2018 regular season while recovering from a torn ACL, though Los Angeles activated him for the playoffs. The injury Henry suffered Sunday occurred in his other knee and appears unrelated.
With Henry on the shelf, the Chargers have just two tight ends on the 53-man roster. Virgil Green, the veteran on his second stint with the team, saw limited action during Week 1. Sean Culkin has appeared in 15 games since joining the team in 2017. He has one catch for 24 yards.
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said the team would evaluate multiple their replacement options for Henry, including practice-squad tight end Matt Sokol. The team also brought in former Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks tight end Luke Willson for a workout on Tuesday. "One of those guys will probably be up Sunday," Lynn said.
The Chargers could also theoretically consider longtime tight end Antonio Gates. Gates played with the team from 2003 to '17 before the front office decided to move onto younger players. That plan changed when Henry tore his ACL last offseason, leading to Gates' return last year.
Whether Gates or the Chargers have interest in another reunion remains unclear. "I haven't been in contact with Antonio," Lynn said. "I'm not sure what his situation is."
Regardless, Henry's injury creates another issue for an already depleted roster. Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon (contract holdout) and left tackle Russell Okung (pulmonary embolism) have not participated in team activities since the start of training camp. Wide receiver Mike Williams hurt his knee against the Colts and could sit out Week 2.
The situation doesn't look much better on defense, where All-Pro safety Derwin James will miss at least the first half of the season with a stress fracture in his foot and linebacker Denzel Perryman has played extremely sparingly while he recovers from an ankle injury. The secondary has dealt with so many injuries that it finished Sunday's game with just three healthy cornerbacks.