FOXBORO (CBS) — Hunter Henry is looking forward to a return out west this weekend. The Patriots tight end spent his first four NFL seasons playing for the Chargers organization, and he got used to the sunny California weather.
Moving to New England has been a bit of an adjustment for Henry. He just experienced his first Nor’easter this week, with rainy and windy conditions making life pretty miserable for everyone in the region. The Patriots practiced inside for the first time this season on Wednesday, as the team prepares for this weekend’s matchup in L.A.READ MORE: David Andrews Not Bothered By Foxboro Cold Before Patriots-Titans Game
“The weather we’ve had the last couple of days, I’m definitely excited to get back out there,” Henry admitted Wednesday morning.
The Chargers also hold a special place in Henry’s heart, giving him his first shot in the NFL as a second-round pick in 2016. He played in 55 games for the Chargers over his four seasons with the team, scoring 21 touchdowns.
“They gave me an opportunity in this league, took a chance on me and drafted me,” he said. “I’ll always have a lot of appreciation for them. Who knows where I’d be. I’m very thankful for the memories and the people I ran into there.”
Henry signed a big-money deal with the Patriots over the offseason, and he called this weekend’s matchup against his former team as “bittersweet.”
“My wife, my family and community are from out there. That was the hardest part, the relationships we built there and just separating from those,” he explained. “Organization-wise, I was very excited to come here and pumped to be a part of this organization. There were some hard times, but the excitement overshadowed that.”
One of the toughest parts of the decision was leaving quarterback Justin Herbert, who won Rookie of the Year honors last year and has continued his growth to become one of the NFL’s elite passers in his second season.
“We had built a good relationship, on the field and off the field. I was excited to see his success last year, and him continuing it this year,” Henry said of Herbert.
Now, Henry is catching passes from another rookie: Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. Like he did with Herbert last year, Henry is doing everything he can to help Jones grow each and every week.READ MORE: Harris, Stevenson Active For Patriots Against Titans
“Everybody is different and it’s a different situation here than it was there. There is a continuance of growth, and that will continue to keep going,” he said.
Jones was stellar once again last week in New England’s blowout win over the New York Jets, picking up his first 300-yard game. Henry continues to be a big part of the Patriots offense, catching a touchdown for the fourth straight week.
Henry only had two catches against the Jets, and has only four over the last two weeks. But as long as the offense as a whole is moving the ball down the field, he’s happy with contributing any way the team asks.
“We kind of exploded last week. We executed at a high level against a good defense that throws different looks at you and has a tough front,” he said. “We were really balanced, and that was a big thing that we were proud of. Our pass game and our run game complemented each other, so we have to continue that and continue to get better at that.”
Henry has played just over 70 percent of New England’s offensive snaps this season, and though he only has 24 catches, he is making an impact in a number of ways. He drew a double team against the Jets that opened up the field for a big gain from fellow tight end Jonnu Smith. He’s also been solid in the blocking game, both on offense and on special teams. On Monday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick lauded Henry for his special teams play against the Jets, which included running across the field on the opening kickoff to help open up a 31-yard return by Gunner Olszewski.
“It’s little things like that that Hunter does; they’re little things that become big things,” said Belichick.
The Patriots offense has really opened up in recent weeks, and not all of it has come from the cannon of Mac Jones. That opening drive against New York ended with receiver Kendrick Bourne throwing a 35-yard touchdown to Nelson Agholor. Bourne is now the second receiver to throw a touchdown for the Patriots this season, joining Jakobi Meyers.
Could a tight end soon get into the passing mix? The Patriots are going to have to pull out some tricks in their Halloween matchup with the Chargers, so Henry will be ready for anything — even if he did his best to keep those tricks under wraps on Wednesday.MORE NEWS: Patriots-Titans Week 12 Predictions
“I can’t give away too much,” he said. “I might have an arm, I might not.”