NFL Receiver Dead After Domestic Incident

Troubled Bengals player Chris Henry suffered fatal head injuries falling out of a truck

By Greg Wilson
|  Thursday, Dec 17, 2009  |  Updated 9:29 AM PDT
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Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry died from injuries suffered in a domestic incident in North Carolina.

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Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer talks about the loss of teammate Chris Henry.
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Troubled Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry died from injuries he suffered falling off a pickup truck during a fight with his fiancee, according to North Carolina cops.

Henry, 26, who was arrested five times in his stormy five-year-tenure with the team, suffered serious head injuries and was on life support following the incident Wednesday. Cops told The Associated Press Wednesday morning that the football player had died.

“This is a very difficult thing with his loss and a young life that will never reach its full potential,"Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis said. "Our prayers are with his family.”

 Police said he and Loleini Tonga got into a fight Wednesday just before noon and she drove away from the house where they are staying. Henry chased after her and jumped into the bed of the truck, but then fell off into the road about a half-mile from the home, cops said.

Henry, who was out for the season with a broken arm and living near Charlotte with the mother of his three children, was found lying in the road, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. He died less than 24 hours later at Carolinas Medical Center.

"We ask everyone to pray for Chris," agent Andy Simms of PlayersRep Sports said in a statement before the grim announcement from cops. "We also ask that you respect the privacy of Chris' family. Chris is indeed battling for his life tonight, and our thoughts and prayers (are) with him during this extremely difficult time."

Henry, who played college football at West Virginia University, had long been troubled. His coach there, Rich Rodriguez, once told him he was an embarrassment to himself and the program.

During Henry's first three seasons, his run-ins with the law included drug charges, to gun possession and, DUI. He served jail time for drinking in a Covington hotel room with underage girls and was suspended for eight games in 2007. The team cut him in April, 2008, after his fifth arrest in 28 months. But four months later, the team re-signed him.

"Since last August when I had a talk with Chris and filled [team owner Mike Brown] in with the details of our meeting, there was a different man that was sitting across from me, a different person," Lewis said. "From that point on, we’ve seen a continual growth from Chris. It had been quite an expansion on the field and off the field."

Brown, who made the decision to resign Henry, said the receiver was maturing.

“I don’t regret it," Brown said. "He had troubles and the sum of them were made more of than they actually were. We knew him here as the person he was in fact. Yes, it was challenging at times with him, but he was someone who we liked and thought could regroup, catch himself and restart his life. To his credit, I think he did that. It’s a terrible tragedy. Just at the time he was running to daylight his life was snuffed out.”

Henry's death was the second tragedy for the team amid a resurgent season that has them aiming for the playoffs for just the second time since 1991. Earlier, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer came home to find his wife Vikki, 50, dead.  She died of natural causes.

In an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer in October, Henry credited his fiancee for helping him straighten out his life, saying, "She's been a big help. She's been right here with me and going through things and helping out on my side. We have the kids, and she has my back with everything I've needed."

Before the start of the season, he got a tattoo that said "Blessed" below his left ear, a reminder of how many chances he's had.

"I don't live the way I did in the past," Henry said, in an interview with The Associated Press during training camp. "I kind of plan my days out and take it one day at a time and stay away from the wrong people. I'm not partying anymore. I'm just focused on football right now and my family. I don't associate with the same people. I've completely changed everything."

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