Bengals’ Hendrickson not missing a beat after skipping OTAs

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson (91) reacts after sacking Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson (91) reacts after sacking Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

CINCNNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson said he doesn’t look at where his 2021 sack total landed him in the franchise record book or how it compared to production of other players in the league.

The sixth-year player is focused on what more he could have done and how he can keep helping the defense improve this season.

Pads only came on Tuesday, but Hendrickson, whose 14 regular-season sacks ranked second most in team history, seems to have picked up right where he left off in practices. Despite being the only player besides contract holdout Jessie Bates to not attend the team’s offseason workout program this spring, Hendrickson hasn’t missed a beat. He’s been a standout in team drills and looks as hungry as he sounds for another shot at the Super Bowl.

“It’s all great, it really is, but again, we achieved some of the goals that we wanted to achieve, and we won games that we wanted to win, but inevitably, you know, we have bigger goals, and we’re excited for this season,” Hendrickson said when asked about his production in the pass rush last year.

After the team’s run to the Super Bowl last year, Hendrickson decided to stay home with his wife and work out on his own, rather than head back to Cincinnati for seven weeks of an offseason workout program. His wife of two years was finishing up school, and Hendrickson said he wanted to support her the way she has supported his career in the NFL.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said he wasn’t concerned about Hendrickson not showing up in the spring because the workouts were all voluntary and he trusted the player would come ready to go for training camp. Hendrickson made sure there were no regrets in that statement.

“He’s full bore, 100 percent in every practice, every rep in the game,” Taylor said. “It causes a lot of problems for the (opponent), they have to focus a lot of attention on him. He makes those around him better. Those around him help his success as well with the interior D linemen and Sam (Hubbard) on the other side. Happy to have him. He’s done a great job. He’s having a good camp right now and we’re expecting great things from him this year.”

Hendrickson stayed in communication with teammates and coaches while he was away this offseason, and he had a good supporting cast around him, he said, helping with his weight lifting and conditioning to ensure he would be prepared for camp.

The time with his wife was important to him, as well, and he came back feeling “mentally and physically strong.”

“I have evaluation of myself and I’m pretty critical of my hand placement and a lot of things I can improve on these last couple days, but I do feel good,” he said. “I feel strong and fast. And I think everybody if you get an offseason, like I’ve had should improve.”

Hendrickson signed a four-year, $60 million contract with the Bengals early in free agency last year to replace Carl Lawson and proved wrong the critics who thought his 13.5 sacks in 2020 with New Orleans were a fluke.

The 27-year-old finished with 17.5 sacks after the playoffs, and his regular-season total ranked fifth most in the league. He also notably recorded at least a half sack in 11 straight games (Games 5-15), which was the longest such streak in team history and tied for second-longest in NFL history.

“Again, it didn’t end the way we wanted to, so there’s things that I could have done better, that would have put us in a better position to win,” he said. “And at the end of the day, the personal (achievement), that’s something I’ll look back on later, too. But right now my focus is on getting better, helping us win games and getting back to where we were.”

Hendrickson has been even better than what the Bengals maybe bargained for, but he reflects on his humble beginnings in the league and is grateful to be where he is now -- even with other defensive ends making more and doing less. He looks forward to continuing to show his value and producing for a team that put faith in him when others in the past did not.

“I came from inactive Year 2, a healthy scratch, and I’ve pretty much walked every walk in the NFL,” Hendrickson said. “I definitely don’t play for money. I play for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and things like that are not relevant to me. … It’s one of those things there’s nowhere I’d rather be, no organization I’d rather play for and being able to help you know win games here is important.”

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