Patriots TE Hunter Henry returns to play Chargers after 'bittersweet' departure

Moving on from the Chargers was not easy for tight end Hunter Henry after five seasons with the franchise.

And after seven games with the Patriots, Henry is heading back for a Southern California homecoming in Sunday’s Week 8 matchup against the Bolts (4-2) at SoFi Stadium.

“It was bittersweet,” Henry said Wednesday of leaving the Chargers, via NFL Network’s Mike Giardi, “the relationships we built there, separating from them.”

A 2016 NFL Draft second-round pick of the Chargers, Henry had an excellent rookie campaign, but thereafter his successes were often mixed with injuries. Following a 613-yard, four-touchdown 2020 campaign in which he had a career-high 60 receptions, Henry inevitably bolted from L.A. and signed a lucrative three-year, $37.5 million deal as part of a Patriots free-agency frenzy.

He’ll roll back into the familiar SoCal confines having hauled in a touchdown catch in each of the last four Patriots games.

Though things are starting to go well and move forward for Henry and the Patriots (3-4), this week is allowing Henry to take a look back.

“They gave me an opportunity in this league, took a chance on me and drafted me,” he said, via CBS Boston, of the Chargers. “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.”

He’s also thankful for a return, albeit brief, to the Southern California weather.

“The weather we’ve had the last couple of days, I’m definitely excited to get back out there,” Henry said.

Though it was bittersweet for Henry to move on from the Bolts, it was an exciting opportunity to join the Patriots that he couldn’t give up.

“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 said. “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.”

Through seven games and five starts, Henry’s caught 24 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns as he develops a chemistry with first-round rookie quarterback Mac Jones a season after hauling in passes from Justin Herbert, who was then a rookie first-rounder, as well.

“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.

It’s a safe assumption that Henry’s not looking forward to continued success for Herbert on this upcoming Sunday, though.

It’s also forecast to be in the mid-60s in Inglewood on Sunday, with a 100% chance of a reunion and the probability of Henry finding the end zone against his former team to be determined.

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