Green Bay Packers: 56 days to football – Ted Hendricks

With 56 days left until the start of Green Bay Packers NFL season, our countdown to the big day continues. Sunday, Sept. 13, is the day when the Packers travel to Chicago to take on the Bears in the season opener.  

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 Bowman, the 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.

Julius Peppers is the newest #56. Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

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 two seasons 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:

FromToAV
Nick Barnett2003201050
Tommy Crutcher1966197213
Burnell Dent1986199210
Sampson Genus201120110
Ted Hendricks1974197411
Lamont Hollinquest199619985
Rob Holmberg200120011
Cliff Lewis198119844
Tom MacLeod197319735
Terrell Manning201220120
Kivuusama Mays199919990
Eugene McCaslin200020000
Hardy Nickerson200220024
Rick Nuzum197819783
Ed O’Neil198019804
Tom Perko197619762
John Pointer198719872
Blane Smith197719772
James Willis199319943