CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry is “battling for his life” after falling out of the back of a pickup truck Wednesday during what police described as a domestic dispute with his fiancee.
Henry was found in the road about eight miles north of downtown Charlotte “apparently suffering life-threatening injuries,” according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. Police spokesman Robert Fey said officers were stationed near the 26-year-old Henry’s hospital room. He had no information on Henry’s condition, but said he was alive.
“We ask everyone to pray for Chris,” agent Andy Simms of PlayersRep Sports said in a statement. “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.”
Police said a dispute began at a home just before noon and Henry jumped into the bed of the pickup truck as his fiancee — whom they did not identify by name — was driving away from the residence.
“The domestic situation continued between the operator and Mr. Henry,” the police said in a statement. “At some point while she was driving, Mr. Henry came out of the back of the vehicle.”
Henry was found on a residential street about a half mile from the home when police were called to the scene. Fey wouldn’t identify the woman and said no charges would be filed Wednesday.
Henry is engaged to Loleini Tonga, and the couple has been raising three children. Tonga’s MySpace page identifies herself as “Mrs. C. Henry” and has a picture of her next to a person who appears to be Henry. She also has a post from Tuesday talking about buying wedding rings.
Neighbor Karen Clanton said the Tonga family lives in the house where the police say the incident began, adding that she didn’t witness it and that “they’re nice folks.”
No one answered the door Wednesday night at the two-story home in the modest neighborhood. A limousine was parked in the long driveway, and there were tire tracks on the front lawn.
Henry was away from the team after breaking his left forearm during a win over Baltimore on Nov. 8. He had surgery and was placed on season-ending injured reserve following the game. Charlotte is home to his fiancee’s parents.
Team spokesman Jack Brennan said he had little information other than Henry was badly hurt.
“We are aware he was in an accident and that his injuries are very serious,” Brennan said. “We are obviously staying in touch with the situation and are ready to offer whatever assistance we can.”
Henry is in the final year of his contract with the Bengals, who let him go after his fifth arrest following the 2007 season. Owner Mike Brown then brought him back a few months later, signing him to a two-year deal. Henry had stayed out of trouble since his return, turning into a feel-good story that got fans rooting for him.
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.”
From the start, his career has been sidetracked by off-the-field problems.
Henry repeatedly got in trouble at West Virginia, where former Mountaineers coach Rich Rodriguez told him that he was an embarrassment to himself and the program.
Most teams to shied away from Henry in the 2005 draft. Cincinnati was the only one that brought him in for a visit, and warned him that he had to stay out of trouble if he was going to make it in the NFL. Then, the Bengals drafted him in the third round.
His ability to run past defenders made him an integral part of the Bengals’ run to the playoffs in 2005. He caught Carson Palmer’s only pass in a playoff loss to Pittsburgh — both of them were hurt on the play.
His rookie season also marked the beginning of his problems in the NFL. He was arrested for marijuana possession in December 2005, and again on a weapons charge a month later in Florida. He was arrested four times in all, drawing repeated suspensions — two games in 2006, the first half of the 2007 season — for violating the league’s conduct policy.
When he was arrested for a fifth time after the 2007 season, the Bengals released Henry. Over the objection of coach Marvin Lewis, Brown changed his mind and gave Henry another chance, offering a two-year contract before the 2008 season began.
After serving a four-game suspension to start the 2008 season, he returned and caught 19 passes in the last 12 games, becoming an afterthought in the offense. He spent the offseason getting in shape and working out so he could become a top receiver again. He impressed coaches and teammates with his newfound determination to resurrect his career.
Before the start of the season, he got a tattoo that said “Blessed” below his left ear, a reminder that he’s gotten plenty of extra chances.
“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.”
A thigh injury limited him early in the season. He had 12 catches for 236 yards and a pair of touchdowns before he broke his arm.
AP Sports Writer Joe Kay and Associated Press Writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.