News: Lenny P: Henson looking to get career on track

Discussion in 'News Zone' started by garrett316, Feb 28, 2006.

  1. garrett316

    garrett316 With the Lights Out, It's Less Dangerous

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    Didn't see this posted yet:

    TAMPA, Fla. -- For a guy who played in the Big 10, and who started big games at the University of Michigan in front of crowds of 107,500 fans at the legendary Big House, this small-time venue might seem like a most incongruous place for Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback Drew Henson to try to take the next big step in his stalled NFL career.

    The well-manicured field at Skyway Park here, after all, is used more often by Pop Warner League teams than professional franchises. The roar of jumbo jets taking off from nearby Tampa International Airport provides a frequently ear-splitting distraction. Big rigs and minivans honk as they speed by on Memorial Highway, which is located just a good punt from one sideline. And the crowd for the Saturday morning scrimmage between the Rhein Fire and Amsterdam Admirals of the NFL Europe League, a group comprised mostly of family members and friends with a few curiosity seekers sprinkled in, numbered exactly 103, as hand-counted by a visiting scribe seeking any sort of preoccupation during warm-ups.

    Yet don't try telling Henson, who departs for Europe in two weeks and is the projected starter for the Fire, that this represents the classic one-step-backwards-to-take-two-steps-forward career approach.

    "No, I just see it as a step, the next thing I have to do as part of the process of becoming an NFL quarterback," said Henson, following the 90-minute scrimmage, a session in which his participation likely accounted for the presence of most of the non-relatives spread out in the aluminum bleachers. "I don't see this as a comedown. Not at all. It's football. It's getting a chance to play and getting snaps. It's something I feel like I have to do and that I definitely want to do."

    Mike Ehrmann/
    Drew Henson has thrown just 18 passes in his NFL career.

    Indeed, the two-year veteran, who first abandoned his college football career to sign a deal with the New York Yankees, and then forfeited the final $12 million of his six-year, $17 million baseball contract to return to the gridiron in 2004, is here voluntarily.

    About halfway through the 2005 season, a campaign in which he was No. 3 on the depth chart and didn't take a single snap, Henson walked into the office of Jerry Jones and apprised the Cowboys owner he was willing to go to Europe if it would accelerate a learning curve that is in arrears principally because of his idleness. The move immediately made Henson, who denied there were suggestions from Dallas officials the previous spring that he play in Europe, easily the highest-profile player among the 366 hopefuls still on NFLEL training camp rosters on Saturday morning.

    From just a physical stature standpoint, Henson, who clearly looks the part of a quarterback, seems the most NFL-ready of anyone else in the six NFLEL camps. In terms of recognition factor, and scrutiny as well, no one else is even close.

    But in terms of recognizing how far Henson has advanced, even though Rhein offensive coordinator Steve Logan used the term "stunning" to describe his latest protégé's progress over the last two weeks, Saturday morning actually offered only a little insight.

    The Fire still have four quarterbacks on the roster, and during the scrimmage, Logan and coach Jim Tomsula used the live workout to get a look at all of them.

    As a result, Henson got only about a dozen snaps, and completed 3 of 5 passes for 33 yards. His best throw of the day, a deep out pattern to the right sideline on a third-and-long play, was dropped. His next best attempt, a slant to the left hash on which he drilled the ball into an incredibly tiny window, was batted away on a terrific defensive play by Amsterdam cornerback Art Thomas. Henson was sacked twice, on consecutive plays.

    Henson looked mechanical and a bit too programmed on some plays, the telling signs of a quarterback who hasn't been on the field very much.
    Which is exactly where Henson, who has one start and 18 attempts on an NFL résumé shy of regular-season entries, is at this point of his football career.

    Still, at the end of the scrimmage -- and this is significant to both the gregarious Tomsula and the pragmatic Logan, the men charged with nudging his apprenticeship forward -- Henson was a happy camper.

    There were times during the warm-up period and the seven-on-seven passing drills Saturday in which the ball seemed to come off the hand of No. 2 quarterback Timmy Chang, the former University of Hawaii star and the most prolific passer in NCAA history, a lot cleaner than it did for Henson. But if Henson's release is undeniably tardy at times, his smile is a quick one, and the Saturday morning effort, as uneven as it was on occasion, elicited a wide grin.

    Which, an obviously passionate Tomsula insisted, is a meaningful part of the building process, too.

    "A lot of guys, from the maturity standpoint, you can't ever get them out of the backyard, you know?" Tomsula said. "With Drew, I want to get him into the backyard again. I mean, he had Michigan, then the Yankees. He had all the attention and the fame and the money. I'm not sure he ever had time to squeeze in being a kid. I don't know the last time this was fun for him. We want him to have fun with this and just go out and play. And we're starting to see some of that. The other day, he came out of a Porta-John, and I said to him, 'Hey, Drew, honestly, when's the last time you used a Porta-John, man?' I mean, just think about it, Drew Henson and a Porta-John, huh? We both got a good laugh out of it. It's good to see him laugh."

    Some skeptics, who have suggested Henson's athletic career has gone from the penthouse to the outhouse in a relatively short period, might get a pretty good chuckle, too, out of the Porta-John image. Henson isn't among those, though, who see the last few years as a series of wasted opportunities. If some shine has been rubbed off the onetime Wolverines golden boy, it's not as if he's been tarnished, but rather truant from real game action.

    And certainly Henson -- who suffered through three subpar seasons in the Yankees' farm system, had problems hitting the curveball, struck out far too often, and fell shy of fulfilling his supposed destiny of becoming New York's next great third baseman and a fixture at Yankee Stadium -- doesn't feel he is going to fail at his latest athletic endeavor. Chosen by the Houston Texans in the sixth round of the 2003 draft, after he essentially bought his way out of his baseball contract, Henson was dealt to the Cowboys in 2004 for a third-round pick in the '05 lottery. He signed an eight-year contract that guaranteed him $3.5 million and can be voided after only four seasons if Henson reaches certain predetermined performance or playing-time levels.

    [FONT=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif][/FONT][FONT=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif]I don't see this as a comedown. Not at all. It's football. It's getting a chance to play and getting snaps. It's something I feel like I have to do and that I definitely want to do.[/FONT][FONT=Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif][/FONT][FONT=Times,serif][/FONT][FONT=Times,serif]Drew Henson[/FONT]

    But Henson, who turned 26 earlier this month, has played in just two games at quarterback in two seasons. In his only start, the Thanksgiving Day 2004 game against the Chicago Bears, he was replaced at halftime by coach Bill Parcells. There are indications that some in the Dallas organization wanted to release Henson at the final wholesale roster cutdown before the start of the '05 season.

    Fortunately for him, Henson has some advocates in the Cowboys' front office and on the coaching staff. Unfortunately, their support didn't translate into playing time, and Henson spent the entire season behind not only starter Drew Bledsoe, but also third-year veteran Tony Romo, a onetime undrafted free agent.

    What he will not spend, it seems, is much time reviewing what has transpired in his athletic career. Asked if he ever thinks about the $12 million he left behind when he quit baseball, Henson allowed: "Oh, yeah, every once in a while that figure pops into my head." Beyond the eight-figure ramifications, however, it seems there is nothing Henson regrets about the circuitous path his career has followed.

    He remains confident now that things are headed in the right direction. And that the direction of his head is right, too.

    "I just think I'm better suited to be a quarterback than I was a third baseman," Henson said. "I mean, I played baseball starting at age 5, and played in every summer for nearly 20 years. And while I loved the game, it tends to be a little too passive for me and my personality, really. I just think, with the way that I'm wired, this is what I'm meant to do."

    There are those, including one former Yankees scout spoke to, that feel Henson might be too over-wired for his own good. The scout postulated that, given his own expectations and the expectation level set by others, too, that Henson was wound too tightly to succeed in baseball.

    Indeed, part of Logan's job, agreed the Fire offensive coordinator, is to create an environment in which Henson doesn't stress so much over every mistake. "To tell the truth, I want him to be a little more playful, to be more inventive. He still takes mistakes too hard, but he's getting better in that area. He wants to be good, so you root for him, you know? Drew really has a great intellect. He is a very bright individual on many levels," said Logan, who is regarded as a top-flight quarterback tutor and coached the NFLEL's top passers in each of the last two years (Rohan Davey in 2004 and Dave Ragone in 2005).

    Apparently, though, geography is not one of those levels.

    In the self-deprecating manner his coaches and teammates have come to enjoy, Henson on Saturday related his experience of trying to locate the city of Rhein, Germany, when he found out that he had been allocated to the Fire. After several fruitless Google searches, he phoned Ragone, who broke the news to him: There is no such city. The team is named for the river and for a region. The club plays in Dusseldorf, a city that possesses a strong passion for the game, as evidenced by the fact there were two Fire fans among the small crowd in the bleacher's for the scrimmage.

    Henson has been to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean, but never to Europe, and emphasized how much he is looking forward to the three months abroad. He noted that the NFLEL season concludes just about the same time the Cowboys get into the most serious segment of their offseason program, and that he will not miss any meaningful time. Whether he returns a quarterback ready to challenge for the No. 2 spot on the Dallas depth chart, and subsequently for a starting spot at some point soon in his career, remains to be seen.

    There is no denying that Henson possesses prototype size (6-foot-4, 233 pounds) and an arm that is plenty strong enough by anyone's standards. But he is typical of a player who has been idle for a long stretch, and whose physical skills have been retooled too many times by people trying to tinker too much with it. The result of those double whammies: Henson looks at times as if he is playing the game too robotically, that he is attempting to relearn it by rote, which is essentially a football equivalent of painting by numbers.

    During the scrimmage, there was some hesitancy, an occasional absence of natural rhythm. And there were times when one could almost envision the wheels turning in Henson's head before he stepped up to throw. There is even some suspicion that Chang, who played in a June Jones-designed run-and-shoot offense at Hawaii, and who has experienced far more exposure to a sophisticated passing game than Henson, could steal away with the starting job.

    Given the commitment of the Cowboys in dispatching Henson to Europe, and the fact he is expected to sacrifice his spring for much-needed playing time, that probably won't happen. Logan allowed that while there is "a competition" for the starting spot, the job "is [Henson's] to lose."

    "One of the things I admire about Drew," Logan said, "is that he sees this experience as a journey."

    And one, Henson insisted, that will have a beneficial end point.

    The instantly likable and ever-candid Henson said this not some last-gasp effort to salvage his career or a desperation move undertaken as some last resort. It's a chance for Henson to earn that most elusive commodity, playing time in live situations, and he has embraced the opportunity. "The way I see it," Henson said, "is that this is a beginning."

    Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for To check out Len's chat archive, click here [​IMG].
  2. TheHustler

    TheHustler Active Member

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    Good read. Hope he does well there.
  3. RCowboyFan

    RCowboyFan Active Member

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    Thanks for for posting, good find. Great read.

    Especially, seems like there is still some problems with changed machanics. I agree with Pastabelly here. Too many tinkering left him with too much thinking process. Lets see if he stops doing that as he plays more in NFLE.

    And that it seems like, pretty much he has locked up the job as starter in that team.
  4. CaptainAmerica

    CaptainAmerica Active Member

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    Very good, in-depth article. Thanks for posting.

    How any Cowboy fan could not pull for Henson to do well is beyond me.

    I think Pasquerelli described Henson's play perfectly. The robotic, automated way he played this past pre-season. Hopefully, with some playing time it will become natural to him again.

    I'm beginning to think it may not happen for him, but I'm certainly pulling for him.

    Also, for those who scoff at him returning to football and question his love or passion for the game, just think for one minute what it means to walk away from $12 million dollars of GUARANTEED money.

    That says something about his desire to play QB and I bet there isn't a single one of us who would have done it.
  5. RCowboyFan

    RCowboyFan Active Member

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    Exactly what I said many times when people point out that he only walked away from baseball because he failed in it and wanted to succeed in Football to get money etc.

    You don't walk away from that kind of money, if Money is the only motivation.
  6. acheman

    acheman Member

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    The irony with this whole article is the fact that the biggest knock on Troy Aikman was that he was "too mechanical/stiff/robotical" looking when he played. I am in no way saying Henson is on Aikman's level, just found that irony to be al ittle ironic, if you get what I mean.
  7. ConcordCowboy

    ConcordCowboy Mr. Buckeye

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    Good Luck Henson...Go get um!:star:
  8. Charles

    Charles Benched

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    If history gives us a glimpse of the future, I think its fair to say Chang will win the job outright.

    If there is a sports dictionary with the definition of "His or Her job to lose", Henson's picture will be front and center.

    Great article, good find.
  9. ConcordCowboy

    ConcordCowboy Mr. Buckeye

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    Well as a Henson backer...I have to say I hope your wrong and if it does come to pass then Henson's days as a Cowboy will probably be over.
  10. CaptainAmerica

    CaptainAmerica Active Member

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    Chan has absolutely no future in the NFL. They aren't trying to develop noodle-arm Timmy Chang to start one day in the NFL. I'm not saying that Chang isn't better than Henson now, I'm just saying you can bet that the higher profile guy is going to get the work, which is the point of him going over to Europe to begin with.

    I guarantee you Jerry had it understood with all the NFLE powers-that-be that Henson would start and play a lot before he was assigned to Europe.

    Think about this point...Do you think it's a coincidence that Henson is paired up with the coach who has produced the last 2 passing leaders in NFLE?

    ABQCOWBOY Moderator Staff Member

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    Forgive me but I can not see how anybody could put this statement, "Chang will win the job outright." and "fair" together at all. Perhaps you can explain that to me.
  12. Doomsday101

    Doomsday101 Well-Known Member

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    Good to see Henson focused on the job at hand and not getting caught up in the media speculation about his future. Henson has the tools to be a very good QB and if he can stay focused and puts in the work I think it will all pay off in the end for him and the Dallas Cowboys.
  13. CrazyCowboy

    CrazyCowboy Well-Known Member

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    Good luck Drew....thanks for the post....nice read!
  14. Charles

    Charles Benched

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    Well based on Henson's history of never nailing down or taking hold of any position in sports that he's been projected attain it's fair to say Timmy Chang could outright win the job.

    At Michigan, because of Henson the recruitng class was considered arguably the best in the Nation. He never surpassed Brady, never really commited himself to Football (was attending Spring training with Yankees whilst at Michigan) and only got the starting gig after Tom Brady left Ann Arbor.

    In Tampa Bay with the Yankees, he never rose above the AAA level, causing the Yankees to sign guys like Robin Ventura etc year to year deals waiting for Henson to "develop".............

    He was begged as the future since the day he set foot at Valley Ranch. He has been stuck in reverse ever since. The back-up job was his to lose in 2004 and 2005. He lost it mid-way throught the season in 2004 and never regained it.

    At every stop, Henson observers have seemed to lay the blame at someone elses feet.

    At Michigan, most thought he should outright destroy Brady once the hit the field for practice, never happened. On campus the Henson faithful claimed Brady was still playing because some influencial Juniors and Seniors preferred Brady because he wasn't the Yankees golden boy, but (Inhindsight) Brady's leadership and relationship skills in the lockeroom (as seen with the Patriots) pretty much put that dog to rest.

    The Yankees not only threw $17 Million at him, they put every resource from coaches to strippers to slumb busters to get him to hit the curve ball. Never happened.............

    Today some are still blaming the Cowboys for his failure due to the mechanics change, others due to injury etc etc.

    The facts remain, other than High School and those 8 memorable games at Ann Arbor as the starter Henson has come up short.

    Its fair to say based on history Henson could once again outright lose his projected spot.

    Can I get any clearer.
  15. acheman

    acheman Member

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    Why don't you tell us how you really feel? You are in a safe environment. No one will lash out at you in anger, no one will physically attack you.
    OK enough of the psychobabble BS.
    Geesh, did Henson kill you dog or something?
  16. aikemirv

    aikemirv Well-Known Member

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    So, you are saying that because he could not outright beat Brady, who is regarded by many as the top QB in the NFL , that he did not rise to the occasion in college.

    Your saying that his performance the year he did start is not rising to the occasion?

    How does not being able to hit a curveball have any bearing on his ability to play football?

    All the reasons you gave are just more ridiculous than those saying that the Cowboys messing with his mechanics and the injury he suffered in TC are what caused his backsliding into 3rd string
  17. RCowboyFan

    RCowboyFan Active Member

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    Yeah, its called the Q-DOG, you know who it was :D
  18. Charles

    Charles Benched

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    Just calling it like it is.

    If Henson wins the starting Rhein Fire gig, it'll be the 1st time he's won a starting QB competition since HighSchool.
  19. Vertigo_17

    Vertigo_17 Well-Known Member

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    and if he does, you'll still find a reason to dislike/diss him?
  20. aikemirv

    aikemirv Well-Known Member

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    So his performance his last year at Michigan did not win him the starting job had he come back?

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