By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — The 2021 season didn’t end the way that any member of the Patriots wanted it to, with New England getting pummeled by the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round. That 47-17 defeat has certainly left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.

But for tight end Hunter Henry, his first season with the Patriots represented a career first for him. It was the first time in Henry’s six NFL seasons that he was able to play in every game, appearing in all 17 regular season games and New England’s postseason tilt.

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Durability was one of the biggest question marks when Henry signed a three-year, $37.4 million deal with the Patriots last offseason. And it wasn’t looking good for the tight end when he missed a large chunk of time in the preseason because of an injury.

But then he went out and gave the Patriots 18 games of production, with nine of his 50 receptions going for touchdowns — a new career-best for Henry. Playing a full season without any injury concerns or absences is something that Henry is extremely proud of.

“That’s always been something lingered over me, that I couldn’t do it,” Henry told reporters Monday after his exit interview with the Patriots brass in Foxboro. “A lot of those injuries were things out of my control, freak injuries. It’s a blessing to be able to do it and it’s hard to do it in this league. To make it all the way to my sixth year, while adding a game, to play a full season, it was a blessing and I’m excited for what’s to come. It’s a big offseason for myself to improve.”

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Henry now has his sights on another career first: His first playoff win. He admitted that his first two playoff games did not go very well, calling Saturday’s loss to the Bills and his 2018 Divisional Round loss to the Patriots while with the L.A. Chargers a pair of “shellackings.”

While playing a full season is obviously big, Henry is now eager to accomplish something even bigger. He said that his focus this offseason will be on strengthening his already solid relationship with Mac Jones, whom he was extremely proud of following an impressive rookie season by the quarterback.

Henry believes that the New England offense was just scratching the surface in 2021.

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“It’s a long season and I’m really proud of Mac, proud of how he handled it. We didn’t play like we wanted to the other night or play well down the stretch. The biggest thing from this is how we grow, how we learn from this,” he said of bouncing back from Saturday’s difficult defeat. “We got a lot better throughout the year and I’m excited to grow with him this offseason. Grow our relationship, our chemistry. I’m excited to have him as my quarterback.”

CBSBoston.com Staff