The couple of Tennessee Titans players who knew Chris Henry of the Cincinnati Bengals said the wide receiver was not at all like one would expect from an NFL player who had so many brushes with the law in his brief professional career.
Henry died early Thursday morning from injuries sustained from being thrown off the back of a pickup truck in Charlotte, N.C., in a matter that apparently stemmed from a dispute with his fiancée. Henry was 26.
Running back LenDale White had been with Henry a few times in the off-season, both independently of and through former Titans teammate Adam “Pacman” Jones, who played college football with Henry at West Virginia.
Jones and Henry became the poster boys of bad behavior in the league in 2007 when Roger Goodell suspended Jones for the entire season, and Henry for half the year after repeated arrests and off-field incidents.
But White, and safety Kevin Kaesviharn, who was a teammate of Henry’s for two years in Cincinnati, painted a different picture of Henry than the public persona.
“I met Chris. We called him ‘Slim.’ I met Slim four years ago when I first got in the NFL. I met him down in Miami before the Super Bowl,” White said. “I hung out with him the whole time I was down there and a couple of times with Pacman. Every time I saw him, he was a cool dude, nothing but respectful. To me, he always seemed like a humble guy who knew where he came from.”
Henry came to the Bengals with issues about his behavior, and was arrested five times and actually was released by the team, but brought back later by Bengals owner Mike Brown. Henry then promised to behave better and had not had any more off-field incidents. He had broken his forearm on Nov. 8 this season and was placed on injured reserve earlier after that.
Kaesviharn also said Henry was a very different guy in the locker room than the way he was portrayed for his many transgressions.
“He was a quiet guy, It was not the impression that [he had in] the media, based on his record. And that’s the sad part as a teammate, seeing this and thinking what people are thinking of him,” Kaesviharn said.
Kaesviharn was sad to see that Henry wouldn’t get the opportunity to follow up on his potential and his second chance.
“I knew him mostly around the locker room and out on the field. He was a good guy. Obviously he’s made mistakes, but we all do,” Kaesviharn said. “He’d learned from his mistakes over the last year-and-a-half or two years almost. I was pulling for him when I had heard he’d re-signed with the team. That’s kind of what life is about, getting second chances and for him to get one again and not to get the chance to fulfill the goals he had for himself is really sad.”
White, too, couldn’t get over how said Henry’s death was and his leaving behind three small children.
“Regardless of whatever someone had done in their life previously, you never want to see this. Not only was he talented on the field, he had kids, so it’s a tragic and sad day. My heart goes out to his family,” White said.
Titans linebacker David Thornton missed another day of practice with his injured shoulder on Thursday. The Titans are still conducting tests and have not yet decided whether Thornton needs to be shut down for the season.
Rookie linebacker Gerald McRath’s emergence has helped, but Coach Jeff Fisher was optimistic that Thornton’s season might not be over just yet.
“We’re still evaluating and we haven’t come to a decision yet. We’ll talk to him and see. The hope is that Dave is going to be able to come back, but his shoulder is quite sore,” Fisher said.
Prior to that, Thornton was also dealing with a hip issue, and Fisher knows it has been a trying season for the veteran linebacker who has missed two games and left Sunday’s win over St. Louis in the second quarter.
“It’s been tough, dealing with the hip and now the shoulder,” Fisher said. “Dave is one of those guys that is going to be up front and honest and he’s able to do things, then he plays. If not, then he’s told us it just doesn’t feel right.”
Center Kevin Mawae was back from a day off with a sore back and participated fully in Thursday’s practice. Also, linebacker Keith Bulluck, a bit under the weather on Wednesday, was a full participant on Thursday, as was receiver Nate Washington, who was limited Wednesday by an ankle problem.
Defensive tackle Tony Brown was out again with a knee injury, but indicated that his intent is to be back on the practice field on Friday.
Defensive end Eric Bakhtiari and tight end Craig Stevens both ran on the side as they suffered concussions in Sunday’s game.