Eerily Similar

Chris Henry, with fiancée Loleini Tonga and their three children.

On Wednesday afternoon, I saw that Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry suffered serious injuries after falling out of the back of a pickup truck in Charlotte.

On Thursday morning, as I dressed for work, I saw on SportsCenter that Henry’s injuries were life-threatening.

By the time I arrived to work, Chris Henry was gone.

For me, the news of his death conjured up the name of another fallen football player: Sean Taylor.

Taylor played free safety for the Washington Redskins from 2004 to 2007. Taylor was shot and killed during a home invasion at his home near Miami in November 2007.

While the details of each player’s death are vastly different (Taylor was murdered during a botched robbery attempt, while it appears Henry’s death was an accident), it’s why they were in that position that struck me.

Henry broke his arm on Nov. 8 during a Week 9 game against the Baltimore Ravens and was placed on injured reserve, which put him out for the season. Taylor suffered a sprained MCL during the 2007 season and was supposed to miss two games. The injuries allowed both players to leave the team.

Only because of the injury was Henry able to be in Charlotte, home of his fiancée’s parents, to help plan his wedding. Only because of the injury was Taylor able to be home with his family when four young men broke into his home.

The similarities don’t end there. Both men were in their mid-twenties (Henry was 26, Taylor was 24). Both men possessed great talent on the football field but struggled to stay on the straight and narrow off the field. Both men, from all accounts, were turning their lives around when they died.

Those similarities alone are why Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis should get in touch with Joe Gibbs, the former Redskins coach who was at the helm when Taylor was murdered. I can think of no one better than Gibbs who can advise Lewis on how to keep the team together – not just for football reasons, but for emotional reasons as well.

For the Redskins’ first game after Taylor’s death, a home game against the Buffalo Bills, the Redskins fielded only 10 men on defense for the first play, leaving the free safety position – Taylor’s position – open.

The Bengals now must travel to San Diego for a game against the Chargers that most likely will determine the No. 2 seed – and a first-round bye – in the AFC.  Will they honor Henry in a similar fashion? That remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, whatever they do will look eerily similar to me…and for all the wrong reasons.

Sean Taylor

(Note: Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis, a teammate of Sean Taylor, speaks to ESPN on what it is like to lose a teammate mid-season. Click here.)

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