Eagles reserve cornerback Geoffrey Pope was putting on his pads and trying to concentrate on practice, just after hearing yesterday that Chris Henry, his friend and former Bengals teammate, had died.
Henry apparently fell out of the back of a moving pickup truck Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C., during an argument with his fiancée, Loleini Tonga. He was not with the team, because a broken forearm ended his season.
"He and I used to go out; she was always with him. I knew her as well," said Pope, signed by the Eagles last month off the Bengals' practice squad. Pope played the first four games of the season for Cincinnati before being demoted. "It's just shocking. He'd done so much to improve his life. She was a big part of that. When I heard the news yesterday, I just really couldn't believe it . . . I'm still just kind of shaken up about it. All you can do is just pray for him and his family."
Henry was arrested several times and was suspended for half the 2007 season by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. After that season, an arrest prompted his release by the Bengals, but the team took him back several months later.
"He was a good guy," Pope said. "From somebody whose locker was next to him in Cincinnati for a year and a half, I went against this guy every day in practice, and he was one of the most athletically gifted people I've ever witnessed. And he had a good heart. He just had a couple problems in his past, but he definitely was on a straight road, trying to clear everything up. Anybody who knew him personally could tell you he was a great guy."
Another former Bengal, Eagles guard Stacy Andrews, concurred.
"For the last year and a half, from the time the Bengals organization brought him back, you could tell he was a changed man," Andrews said. "You could see it in his eyes. He was always smiling, as opposed to when the negative things were going on . . . He had that aura about him . . . My heart goes out to his family, kids. It was shocking to hear."
Henry and Tonga had been raising three children. *