The seemingly annual curse of the Chargers struck even earlier than usual this year, when ascending third-year TE Hunter Henry suffered a season-ending ACL tear on Tuesday, the team's first day of OTAs.
Henry, the club's 2016 second-rounder, logged 81-1,057-12 receiving in his first two seasons, and was poised for a true breakout campaign in Year 3, which was set to be his first season entirely out of the shadow of future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates.
Prior to Henry's crushing injury, the Chargers had informed Gates, the soon-to-be 38-year-old free agent, that they planned to move forward without him. But in the immediate aftermath of Henry's injury, conventional wisdom suggested Gates could hear from the Chargers soon about returning to a TE room with only ex-Bronco Virgil Green having an NFL reception to his name.
Thus, it was at least a bit curious when Chargers GM Tom Telesco's chat with the team's website for a Wednesday piece didn't include a single mention of Gates, the NFL's all-time TD leader among tight ends.
Telesco said, "We'll look at all of our options out there, and see where the road heads after that."
Telesco mentioned the timing of the injury — four-plus months out from Week 1 — as the "only positive" in a tough situation.
Gates, whose game was never built on speed to begin with, clearly has lost a step and wouldn't be able to replace the seam-stretching skills of Henry. Still, we thought Gates' unique rapport with the team, namely QB Philip Rivers, and availability would also qualify as silver lining. We might have been wrong. The Chargers could be determined to start a new chapter in their TE room — even one missing Henry in 2018, when the club is largely viewed as the AFC West favorite and a potential Super Bowl contender.
Even without Henry, the Chargers should boast one of the NFL's more loaded offenses. Perhaps they think Mike Williams' healthy return in Year 2 would help replace Gates' presence in the red zone, where he's easily the most valuable at this juncture.