As reported by WEEI’s Mike Kadlick, Henry went amiss when he talked about reviewing game film of previous Patriots Rob Gronkowski and the late Aaron Hernandez. Both former Patriots played under current offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, who returned to New England this year.
“Those guys are legends around here,” Henry told reporters on Thursday, July 27, via Kadlick.
Gronkowski fits that bill amid three Super Bowl wins and 521 catches for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns as a Patriot from 2010 to 2018. He continued his Hall of Fame-caliber career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2020 to 2021 where he won another Super Bowl before his 2022 retirement.
Hernandez’s career began with promise, but it ended after three seasons, 2010 to 2012, amid off-field and legal issues. He tallied 175 receptions for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns in his career — all comparable to Gronkowski’s first three seasons.
Things didn’t end well for Hernandez after the NFL. He received a life sentence after he murdered Odin Lloyd in 2013 and Hernandez committed suicide in prison in 2017.
Bill Belichick Says Hunter Henry ‘Made a Lot of Improvement’
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick likely won’t expect Henry to match Gronkowski’s level, but the coach sees significant progress for the seventh-year veteran during offseason workouts.
“Great, good, really good, one of our best,” Belichick said about Henry during a Thursday, July 27, press conference.
“He was here every day, consistency. Made a lot of improvement this year. Last year he was coming off surgery but this year he had a really good, productive offseason from a strength and conditioning standpoint. Last year it was more rehab. He was productive on the field, gave us good leadership. He was great,” Belichick added.
Henry caught 41 passes for 509 yards and two touchdowns last season — all lower totals from his first Patriots season in 2021 and last four with the Los Angeles Chargers. He has 287 receptions for 3,434 yards and 59 touchdowns in his career.
The Patriots signed Henry as a free agent in 2021 with a three-year, $37.5 million contract. Henry enters the final year of his deal this season.
He wants to make the most of 2023 after a subpar year in 2022. If the Patriots get the best of Henry, it could boost the team’s offense in the red zone.
“I think there was a lot to learn from last year,” Henry told reporters. “It left a taste in my mouth that I didn’t like, and I wanted to have something to prove. It started with being in the building, being with the guys.”
Hunter Henry Comes in Healthy for 2023
Henry knows well that injuries can set back the offseason process let alone disrupt a season.
He had shoulder surgery after the 2021 season, and it set him back in preparation for 2022. Henry described the difference this time around with a full, healthy offseason.
“That was a blessing, for sure,” Henry said. “You’ll always have the aches and bruises from a season, but when it’s just that it’s pretty nice.”