Hunter Henry was voted a New England Patriots team captain for the first time this season. So, when rookie Demario Douglas made a costly mistake in Sunday night’s defeat, the captain knew exactly how how to lift his spirits.
The inspiration: Henry’s own mistake early in his rookie season.
“I actually talked to him on Monday and told him a similar story to me, actually,” Henry said on Wednesday. “Third game of my career is the first game I’m starting. Antonio Gates, I was backing him up basically, but he got hurt. I’m starting, had a pretty good game against the Indianapolis Colts.
“We have this two-minute drive, we’re down maybe two, and all I need is a field goal. I run a really good route, there was about a minute left in the game, I catch the ball and I get down the field. I make the first guy miss, but I’m looking at the next guy and not thinking about what’s going on, and the ball gets poked out from behind. I lost the game for our team in a two-minute drive situation.”
While Douglas’ fumble didn't directly cost the Patriots the game on Sunday, the play was quite similar to Henry’s hiccup — which made the veteran’s message that much more important.
“That was my rookie year, third game of the year, and it really woke me up to this level and humbled me a lot, and I learned a lot,” Henry said. “I realized that I needed to hold onto the ball a little bit tighter.
“So I kind of conveyed that to him. I’m going on my eighth year now, and I think I’ve only had one other fumble in maybe eight years.”
Henry went on to describe his fumble as a “motivating factor” to quickly rebound the following week. The Patriots will be looking for similar bounce back from Douglas this week against the Jets, something the tight end and his quarterback believe they’ll see.
“Pop’s a great player. We need him. He’s going to learn from this. He’s going to learn a lot from it,” Henry said. “I enjoy going out and competing with him. He’s done a lot of great things for us, and I know he will continue to.”
“For sure, the older guys — including myself — just trying to lift him up and let him know that he’s a great player, and one play, one week doesn’t define anybody,” Mac Jones later added. “He’s going to come out and keep swinging. He has a lot of speed, smart kid, tough, dependable, all the stuff. So, he’s going to bounce back and so are we.”