Police: Bengals WR Henry dead at 26
Updated Dec 17, 2009 10:43 AM EDT
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry died early Thursday morning, according to a report on the Charlotte Observer Web site.
Police said Henry, who suffered severe injuries when he "came out" of the back of a pickup truck during a domestic dispute in northern Charlotte, died at 6:36 a.m. at Carolinas Medical Center.
A cause of death has not been released.
On Wednesday, Henry was found in the road about eight miles north of downtown Charlotte "apparently suffering life-threatening injuries," according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. Henry was transported to Carolinas Medical Center, the local trauma unit.
Police said a dispute began at a home just before noon and Henry jumped into the bed of the pickup truck as his unidentified fiancee was driving away from the residence.
"The domestic situation continued between the operator and Mr. Henry," the police said in a statement. "At some point while she was driving, Mr. Henry came out of the back of the vehicle."
Fey wouldn't name the woman and said no charges would be filed on Wednesday.
Henry was found on a residential street about a half mile away from the home when police were called to the scene after a medic report that a man was down.
A woman who identified herself as the fiancee's mother but declined to give her name told the Charlotte Observer that Henry and his fiancee had been staying at her house while he was on injured reserve and they were making plans for their wedding.
She said she wasn't home at the time of the dispute and wasn't sure exactly what happened, but she said her daughter is at Henry's bedside at the hospital.
Henry was engaged to Loleini Tonga, and the couple has been raising three children.
Neighbor Karen Clanton said the Tonga family lives in the house where the police say the incident began, adding that she didn't witness it and that "they're nice folks."
Henry broke his left forearm during a win over Baltimore on Nov. 8, had surgery and was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Charlotte is home to his fiancee's parents, the Bengals said.
Brown said Rusty Guy, the Bengals' director of security, will travel to Charlotte this morning to assist Henry's family.
Henry was in the final year of his contract with the Bengals, who let him go after his fifth arrest following the 2007 season. Owner Mike Brown then brought him back a few months later, signing him to a two-year deal. Henry had stayed out of trouble since his return, turning into a feel-good story that got fans rooting for him.
“Chris is Chris. He’s personable with his guys, but quiet,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said on the Bengals' Web site Wednesday. “You could tell he missed being out there with us. He was supportive. He’s a big part of what we are. I really admire how he carries himself, how he's changed his life, and how he's made his career his passion. That’s what this team has done. He's one of the guys that has helped give this team that attitude. We’re worried about him and praying for him.”
In an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer in October, Henry credited his fiancee for helping him straighten out his life, saying, "She's been a big help. She's been right here with me and going through things and helping out on my side. We have the kids, and she has my back with everything I've needed."
From the start, his career has been sidetracked by off-the-field problems.
Henry repeatedly got in trouble at West Virginia, where former Mountaineers coach Rich Rodriguez told him that he was an embarrassment to himself and the program.
Most teams shied away from Henry in the 2005 draft. Cincinnati was the only one that brought him in for a visit, and warned him that he had to stay out of trouble if he was going to make it in the NFL. Then, the Bengals drafted him in the third round.
His ability to run past defenders made him an integral part of the Bengals' run to the playoffs in 2005. He caught Carson Palmer's only pass in a playoff loss to Pittsburgh — both of them were hurt on the play.
His rookie season also marked the beginning of his problems in the NFL. He was arrested for marijuana possession in December 2005, and again on a weapons charge a month later in Florida. He was arrested four times in all, drawing repeated suspensions - two games in 2006, the first half of the 2007 season — for violating the league's conduct policy.
When he was arrested for a fifth time after the 2007 season, the Bengals released Henry. Over the objection of coach Marvin Lewis, Brown changed his mind and gave Henry another chance, offering a two-year contract before the 2008 season began.
After serving a four-game suspension to start the 2008 season, he returned and caught 19 passes in the last 12 games, becoming an afterthought in the offense. He spent the offseason getting in shape and working out so he could become a top receiver again. He impressed coaches and teammates with his newfound determination to resurrect his career.
Before the start of the season, he got a tattoo that said "Blessed" below his left ear, a reminder that he's gotten plenty of extra chances.
"I don't live the way I did in the past," Henry said, in an interview with The Associated Press during training camp. "I kind of plan my days out and take it one day at a time and stay away from the wrong people. I'm not partying anymore. I'm just focused on football right now and my family. I don't associate with the same people. I've completely changed everything."
A thigh injury limited him early in the season. He had 12 catches for 236 yards and a pair of touchdowns before he broke his arm.
He died this morning. Pretty sad, he was really young.