56 days to football: Ted Hendricks

With 56 days left until the start of the NFL season, our countdown to the big day continues. Thursday, Sept. 4, is the day when the Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle to take on the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks.  Over the  course of the next 56 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … today it’s number 56.

Yesterday, we took a look at  Ken Bowmanthe Packers longtime center who was best known for being the invisible one in the epic block that sprang the door open for Bart Starr to score the winning touchdown in the Ice Bowl with 16 seconds remaining.

Today we take a look at #56, a number that’s been worn by a total of 19 different players since 1950 and when you add in the newest #56 – Julius Peppers – that goes up one. In addition Peppers, a few of the most recognizable Packers to have worn the jersey are Nick Barnett, Burnell DentLamont Hollinquest and Tommy Crutcher.

But with today’s number we look at one player who stopped by the Packers for a quick cup of coffee … a player who basically made a cameo on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame – Ted Hendricks.

While we can only hope that the Packers get more than one season out of Peppers – who ironically is wearing the same number as Hendricks – there have been plenty of other players who made single-season stops in Green Bay.

John Maxymuk, the author of “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore them,” focuses on Hendricks in the chapter of his book that singles out “cameos.”

Let’s take a look at what he has to say about Hendricks:

Ted Hendricks was a wild chaacter known for such stunts as coming to a Halloween practice session wearing a hollowed-out pumpkin on his head. Another time he charged onto the practice field in full football gear on the back of a horse. Still another time he was shown sitting on the bench during a Monday Nigh Football game wearing a harlequin’s mask. He was also a great player – fas, agile, intelligent, strong, and an expert blitzed. He was a freelancer in many ways.

Called the “Mad Stork” since his college days at Miami for his unusual build (6-7, 220 pounds), Hendricks was a second round pick o he Balimore Cols in 1969. He moved right in as a strting linebacker in his rookie year. He made All Pro three times and played in three Pro Bowls in five years with the Colts. He also won a Super Bowl ring with Baltimore in 1971. In  1974, Hendricks signed with the Jacksonville Sharks of the fledgling, ill fated World Football League for the 1975 season. Within a wee, he was traded to Green Bay for an eight round pick.

Under Dan Devine in Green Bay, he would have perhaps the finest year of his 15-yar career. He led the team with five interceptions and blocked an NFL record seven kicks (three punts, three field goals, and one extra point). Again, he mad All Pro and went to the the Pro Bowl. When Jacksonvilled defaulted  on his first payment, it looked like Green Bay had a future Hall of Famer long-term. However, the one-year contract Hendricks had signed with Devine had no option year, making Hendricks a free agent. In 1975, that made him a rare bird in more ways than one.

New coach Bart Starr would not meet Hendricks’ contract demands – chiefly that his contract be guaranteed. Starr could not see what a special talent Hendricks was and how it was worthwhile to go to unusual lengths to keep him. So Bart did the best thing he could think of and traded Ted to the Raiders for two number one picks. The picks would turn out to be Ezra Johnson, a good defensive end, and Mark Koncar, a mediocre lineman. Perhaps, if Starr had made better picks in 1976 ad 1977, the loss of Ted Hendricks would have been so devastating.

For the Oakland Raiders, Ted would wear 83, the nuber of another one-year Packer, Ben Davidson. Ted would play linebacker nine more years for the Raiders and be known as “Kick ‘em in the head, Ted” or “Kick ‘em” for short. He would play on three more winning Super Bowl teams, make two more All Pro teams, and go to four more Pro Bowls. Neither Ezra Johnson nor Mark Koncar would ever make an All Pro team and Johnson would play in only one Pro Bowl.

Here are all the Packers players who have worn #56 for the Green Bay Packers over the past 50 years:

From To AV
Nick Barnett 2003 2010 50
Tommy Crutcher 1966 1972 13
Burnell Dent 1986 1992 10
Sampson Genus 2011 2011 0
Ted Hendricks 1974 1974 11
Lamont Hollinquest 1996 1998 5
Rob Holmberg 2001 2001 1
Cliff Lewis 1981 1984 4
Tom MacLeod 1973 1973 5
Terrell Manning 2012 2012 0
Kivuusama Mays 1999 1999 0
Eugene McCaslin 2000 2000 0
Hardy Nickerson 2002 2002 4
Rick Nuzum 1978 1978 3
Ed O’Neil 1980 1980 4
Tom Perko 1976 1976 2
John Pointer 1987 1987 2
Blane Smith 1977 1977 2
James Willis 1993 1994 3

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