Patriots’ culture has caught hold of Hunter Henry

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While the veracity of the so-called “Patriot Way” has been debated over the years, there is no question that there is indeed a unique work culture in New England under Bill Belichick.

And that culture certainly isn’t for everyone.

Following an aggressive offseason of free agent additions, that’s an important factor to keep in mind as the Patriots – newcomers and returning veterans alike – work through the offseason, the summer and, eventually, to the new season.

It’s a long process in a tough place to play, but at least one high-priced centerpiece offseason free agent addition already feels at home in his new workplace – tight end Hunter Henry. After playing his college football at Arkansas and the first five years of his NFL career in San Diego/L.A. with the Chargers, Henry is settling into life in New England.

“I enjoy this culture. I think it fits me really well, and I’m excited to just embrace myself in it and really just be a complete Patriot and what it means,” Henry said Thursday in a Zoom call with the local media following an OTA workout at Gillette Stadium. “It’s just such a winning culture. There’s a tradition here. There’s a high level of expectation. So I think a lot of us, even including myself, are very excited about trying to elevate ourselves to meet those expectations and this culture. Excited to be here in this locker room and go to work every single day with these guys.”

While many players across the league, and even some of his new teammates, are skipping OTA workouts, Henry is more than happy to take part in the key early part of the process.

“I’m new to the team obviously, everyone knows that. But also, I honestly thoroughly enjoy this time of year,” Henry said. “I’ve also had a bad time this time of the year too – one year getting hurt and losing my season. But at the same time, this time of the year is great for the team. We get to build team chemistry at a slower pace sometimes early on, and then we get to continue to build. It’s a great time before training camp comes to just get a lot of reps in that maybe we can’t get back. I enjoy being here. It’s fun to be around the guys and to build this team chemistry as we go into the season.”

One aspect that Henry has certainly taken note of in his new home, new work environment, are his bosses. Obviously Belichick and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are well known in league circles, but playing for them is a different matter.

“On the outside looking in, obviously they’re great coaches. And then when you get hands-on with them, they’re phenomenal as well, even more than you think,” Henry said. “They’re two of the best minds football can offer, so just trying to pick as much as I can from them and continue to learn.”

Along with other new additions on the offense like fellow tight end Jonnu Smith, Henry sounds like a guy with pretty high hopes for the new look New England offense, even if the quarterback position may be up for competition between Cam Newton and first-round pick Mac Jones.

“I’m focused on what I gotta do, and we’re focused on our room. Me and Jonnu, we gotta be dialed in on what we gotta do,” Henry said. “And I think any time, we always have to keep elevating each other. That starts with us, it starts with the receivers, starts with the O-line. This is the ultimate team sport, so we all gotta elevate each other, compete at a high level. And when all of us are clicking at a high level, it’s going to be hard to stop.”