The Cincinnati Bengals are in the midst of one of their best seasons in recent memory.
But it’s also turning out to be the most painful.
A second member of the Bengals’ family passed away this season as receiver Chris Henry, 26, died Thursday morning. According to a police report, Henry fell out of the back of a pickup truck in Charlotte, N.C., during a domestic incident with his fiancée Wednesday, suffering injuries that led to his death.
In October, the Bengals had to rally their emotions after the passing of Vikki Zimmer, the wife of Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Now, the loss of a teammate who spent five seasons with the Bengals provides another shock to the system. Right now football is secondary, but this weekend the Bengals (9-4) will travel to play the San Diego Chargers (10-3) in an important game for both teams.
In my recent dealings with Henry, it was clear that he was happy about the present and very excited for the future. Henry realized that his past mistakes meant he had one last shot in the NFL, and it was his plan to make the most of it. He was due to become a free agent in March.
Physically, Henry always had it, and mentally he was starting to get it. Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer often called him a young Randy Moss and praised Henry for his offseason work and dedication this year.
"He had worked through troubles in his life and had finally, seemingly, reached the point where everything was going to blossom," Bengals owner Mike Brown said Thursday in a news conference. "He was going to have the future that we all wanted for him and he wanted for himself."
But on Nov. 8, Henry broke his forearm in a 17-7 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, and I interviewed him briefly in the center of the Bengals' locker room after the game. Henry’s family was waiting for him, but he took a few minutes with me anyway to explain how he broke his arm.
Realizing that, I thanked him and let him know I appreciated his time for the interview.
I had no idea that would be the last conversation I would have with Chris Henry.
Adam Schefter talks about the league's reaction to the death of Chris Henry.