Through a month of mysteries revealed — Shaq Lawson’s shoulder, Sammy Watkins’ foot, the General Manager's take on football's violence — the Seantrel Henderson mystery lingered last week. After last week’s open organized team activity (OTA) practice, head coach Rex Ryan began by calling the right tackle's absence “a medical thing,” before admitting they haven’t spoken since the last day of last season.
“I can’t really recall talking to him,” Ryan said. “I think he has been in since then but I haven’t talked to him personally.”
When asked what the odds are that Henderson is even on the team next season, one teammate responded, “Nobody knows.”
Messages left for Henderson and Henderson’s agent, Alan Herman, were not initially returned though Herman called back later Monday and shed plenty of light on Henderson's off-season in the story linked above.
"Crohn's disease is no minor condition," Herman said. "It has to be treated properly. ... He had the surgery and had to wear a bag for a number of months after that, which is no walk in the park. And he stayed close to Minnesota to make sure he was getting the right kind of treatment. Then, they basically took the bag out about a month ago. Everything is OK now to the point where once he had the second surgery and was in the hospital for three days, he's been cleared to do whatever he wants.
"When a guy's wearing a bag and he's going through the process of healing, clearly if any of his coaches called he would've returned the phone call. But to this day, nobody has called him."
Battling severe stomach pains, Henderson was hospitalized when the Bills played at Philadelphia. But details on Henderson’s whereabouts and plans for 2016 remained limited until Monday.
Two months ago, GM Doug Whaley said the team received "positive news" on his health. On the field, he's been up and down. While Henderson led all players in performance-based pay as a rookie after playing 1,132 snaps, he was also pushed around at times last year. The 24-10 loss to the New York Giants was especially rough.
Buffalo returns to the field for a second round of voluntary OTA's this week. Minicamp is slated for June 14-16.
Herman indicated that Henderson is cleared to practice this week.
For now, Jordan Mills is running with the No. 1 offense. In 2013 and 2014, under current Bills O-Line coach Aaron Kromer with the Chicago Bears, Mills started 29 of 29 games. And in his five starts last year, he mostly held his own. He's not overwhelming but the offense still functioned. Then, there's Cyrus Kouandjio. By now, yes, Whaley sure wishes the former 44th overall pick was starting.
“Once he gets more consistent,” Whaley said, “he can truly battle for that job. I know he’s really diligent in his workouts and his health and eating habits and trying to take a composite approach to make himself better.”
No, coaches are not throwing in the towel on Kouandjio yet.
Last week, Ryan brought up Dwan Edwards’ name. A 51st overall pick in 2004, the defensive tackle started slow in Baltimore before finding a way to stick for 11 seasons. The problem internally isn’t Kouandio’s play at all — they believe he has the talent, the will. It’s his knee. Several teams failed him on his Combine physical. NFL Network reported then he had an “arthritic knee from failed surgery.” While CBS Sports later reported that Dr. James Andrews — who examined Kouandjio’s knee but didn't do the surgery — did not see issues, the knee has flared up at times in the pros.
There are no such concerns on the left side of the Bills’ line where Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito are locked up long term. Running backs could follow a pulling Incognito to the right side again. Despite the injuries at right tackle last season, the Bills still led the NFL in rushing. And when Buffalo faced Houston’s superhuman J.J. Watt, coaches attached Glenn to Mills' hip.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman can stay creative, can scheme around issues. Right guard John Miller should only improve after enduring much physical (high ankle sprain) and emotional (death of his mother) anguish the back-half of his rookie season. Henderson’s murky status could throw a wrench into the equation. At this point, teams are more apt to locate an alien than a starting-caliber tackle on the open market.
He'll now compete with Mills and Kouandjio to keep his starting spot.