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Chargers to look at options for Hunter Henry substitute

Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco isn't going to lie -- losing Hunter Henry to a torn ACL for the entire 2018 season hurts.

"I'm not going to minimize it," Telesco told the team's official website Wednesday. "He's a Pro Bowl talent with Pro Bowl intangibles. As bad as you feel losing him, and as bad as the fans feel about it, Hunter feels worse. This team means a lot to him, and he means a lot to us."

In the aftermath of a strong 2017 season that solidified his ascension into the upper echelon of NFL tight ends, Henry was poised to played a big role in the Bolts' offense with the team moving on from Antonio Gates. The 23-year-old's budding stardom ultimately led the Chargers to view Gates' on-field contributions as expendable even though his Hall of Fame-caliber legacy continues to shine brightly in the front office.

The big question is: Who will take over Henry's role?

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday the Chargers will "have a conversation" about the possibility of bringing back the soon-to-be 38-year-old Gates, who's floating on the free-agent market. Telesco said the team is considering it's next move.

"We'll kind of look at all of our options out there," Telesco said. "The only positive right now for us is it's May 23. We've got four-plus months before we open up. So we'll look at all the options out there, and see where the road heads after that."

Gates isn't the only option the Chargers have at tight end. Los Angeles signed Virgil Green this offseason and has second-year players Braedon Bowman and Sean Culkin at the ready. Still, none of them are considered a Hunter replacement.

Although it's hard to imagine Gates rediscovering the skills that made him a three-time All-Pro, it's clear the Chargers have a need at tight end with Henry out -- and he might present their best option at this point.

For now, they'll try not to dwell on the randomness of Henry's injury.

"Just a routine out-route by Hunter that I can't tell you how many hundreds of times he's run that route," Telesco said about the play leading to the torn ACL. "He loves this team, and we love him, too. He wanted to be a part of this this year, and anytime you get hurt it's hard to take, but this early [it's tough]. He knew he was going to be a big part of this football team."

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