Hunter Henry on New England Patriots' culture: 'It fits me really well'

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The first time tight end Hunter Henry answered questions from reporters as a member of the New England Patriots, he was in the front seat of his car, a white hat flipped backward on his head.

He had just finished an informal March throwing session with some new teammates in California, and the setting had a West Coast chill vibe to it. Then on Thursday, in Henry's second meeting with reporters, he had a black lid flipped backward on his head, and one might have thought he had just returned from a day at the beach.

Don't let the casual perception fool you.

Henry, a 2016 second-round draft pick who spent the first five years of his pro career with the Los Angeles Chargers, is enjoying the grind of immersing himself into the Patriots' way of doing things.

"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," he said last week after completing the team's third voluntary organized team activity.

"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, including myself, are very excited about trying to elevate ourselves to meet those expectations and this culture."

Henry was hard to miss during Thursday's practice, with his size (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) and soft hands catching the football on display. The Patriots hope pairing him with Jonnu Smith will bring the two-tight end set back to prominence in their attack. Smith wasn't present last week for voluntary practices after becoming a new dad.

The Patriots' history of success with multiple tight ends was part of the reason Henry signed a three-year, $37.5 million deal with the team, just one day after Smith landed a four-year, $50 million pact.

In doing so, Henry, who was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and attended the University of Arkansas, committed to spend the offseason in Foxborough.

"I've really enjoyed my time these past two months, month and a half, I've been here -- the facility, the guys, everything that we're doing here. Excited to continue to keep building," he said.

"This time of year I really honestly enjoy, because you can kind of slow things down a little bit. It's starting to pick up as we go, but we slowly build as we get going. This time is huge."

Henry, who will wear No. 85 in part to honor his former Chargers teammate Antonio Gates, said part of that is building chemistry off the field, especially with so many new players on offense.

He said that camaraderie is going well. Henry, 26, also appreciates the on-field work, because he remembers not being able to do that in the past when recovering from injuries.

Meanwhile, Henry also has committed to attend the "TE University" scheduled for later this offseason in Nashville, Tennessee, with the San Francisco 49ers' George Kittle, the Kansas City Chiefs' Travis Kelce and former NFL tight end Greg Olsen teaming up to "uniTE" tight ends. The offseason experience will serve as a chance for tight ends across the league to come together and talk about their craft.

"Some of the best tight ends in this game and what they can offer; there are so many different ways to do things," Henry said. "It'll be fun to bounce ideas and everything off those guys."