Chris Herndon admitted he was not in a good place during a lost 2019 season. He's in "a good space" now, though.
Herndon’s second NFL season started with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
The Jets tight end worked hard to return, but he injured his hamstring a few days before the suspension ended. It cost him four more games. Herndon returned in November and broke his ribs against the Giants. His season was over. One catch, 7 yards.
But Herndon is eager to return to being an important weapon in the Jets offense.
“My body’s feeling good,” Herndon said during a Zoom call this week. “I’m in a good space mentally. I’m excited to be back with my team and putting in work with them again.”
The 24-year-old Herndon takes responsibility for his suspension. But it’s what happened on his road back to playing that frustrated him and ultimately gave him a greater appreciation for playing football. He said it “wasn’t good internally” to not be able to play and help his teammates.
“It was tough,” Herndon said. “It didn’t go exactly as planned especially coming off suspension. It was a big learning year for me and kind of a chance to step back and watch from the outside and make me appreciate more because that was just a quick view of how fast it can be taken from you.
“Putting in a lot of work and seeing how fast it was taken away from me, I felt like I was doing the right things to come back from suspension,” he added. “I had a little fluke accident and the first game back I get injured. It was definitely tough at first, first couple of weeks kind of accepting that the season for me was done and I couldn’t be out there with my team.”
In Herndon’s absence, the Jets signed former Texans tight end Ryan Griffin, who made an impact by tying for second on the team with five touchdown catches in 13 games.
Getting Herndon back should diversify the offense even more. Adam Gase likes to utilize the middle of the field, and run two-tight end sets. Herndon played well as a rookie and became one of quarterback Sam Darnold’s favorite targets in the red zone. Herndon caught four touchdown passes in 2018, the second most on the team. But Herndon doesn’t want to put any expectations on this season, which has the coronavirus pandemic looming as training camp progresses.
“Right now, I don’t want to look too far ahead,” he said. “I want to take things day by day, get into camp, start getting some reps on the field and go from there. I don’t want to put too much in that air right now.”
Herndon and Darnold came to the Jets together as part of the 2018 draft class. The Jets envisioned them growing and becoming a productive and formidable tandem. Herndon played all of 18 snaps last year, but he looks forward to working on and even improving the chemistry he had with Darnold.
“That comes with continuing to get reps and continuing to stay in the playbooks and doing what I have to do, doing what my teammates and coaches are asking from me,” Herndon said. “That will put you in the right position to make plays and be on the field and help the team out as much as possible.”