COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Eight months of strenuous work and rehabilitation culminated for Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry when he took the field for the first offensive snap of the game against the New England Patriots in the AFC divisional round Jan. 13.
Henry played 14 snaps on offense and was targeted one time, finishing without a reception in his first game action since suffering a torn ACL in May. Henry did have a couple of nice blocks in the running game.
"It felt really good, actually," Henry said. "I mean, I wasn't my full self probably, or where I would like to be, but it still felt real good out there -- it was good to be out there and rolling.
"It felt good to hit some people. It was a long journey to get there, but it felt good."
Henry acknowledged he's still not 100 percent, and will continue his rehab the next few months as he works toward the start of the Chargers' offseason program April 15.
Henry will go into the 2019 season as the team's No. 1 pass-catching threat at tight end.
Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said it will be important for Henry to get some recovery time during the offseason because he's been intently focused on his rehab so he could play this season.
"I'm glad he got a chance to get back on the field," Telesco said of the 24-year-old. "He did so much work to get there. That was great. This will help him in the offseason program.
"He does need to get some rest like everybody else. When you're rehabbing during the season, it's a full-time job. I just think maybe even for his mental state it's good to know he was back out on the field blocking, hit the ground a couple times, ran some routes. Obviously, he was not 100 percent there at all, but it was nice to have him out there again."
With a healthy Henry returning to the lineup, Telesco will have to decide if he brings back future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates for a 17th NFL season. Gates, who turns 39 in June, already said he would like to play in 2019.
Telesco said he has had a conversation with Gates but still needs to figure out what the plans are moving forward. However, unlike last year, Telesco said the organization will decide sooner rather than later.
"I'll say the same thing I said last year around this time, he can still play," Telesco said of Gates. "He still has snaps in his body. He still has catches. He still has touchdowns in his body, and I'll be forever grateful. Obviously, last year we tried to move on from him, the situation changes, and we go back to Antonio and he could have said, ‘You know what, I'm going to play, but I'll go play for somebody else.'
"He could have come back to play for us and be bitter about it -- and he was neither. He was an awesome teammate. Great to be around and I'll never forget that. I'll forever be grateful for that. But for next year, if you're asking me now, my heart says, 'Yeah, he'll be back next year.' But you put your GM hat on, and you look at what's the role? Where are resources with the cap? But we'll come to that conclusion a lot quicker than we did last year.
"The short answer is I don't know yet."