Ted Hendricks - NFL Career - Oakland / Los Angeles Raiders

Oakland / Los Angeles Raiders

After the trade, Hendricks went on to play nine seasons with the Raiders before retiring after the 1983 season. In his first year on the Raider team, coach John Madden used him sparingly, partly as a result of a feud he had with Al Davis. However, Madden eventually had him starting by the end of the 1975 season. Statistically, it was the worst of Ted's career. He recorded only 27 tackles and 3 passes batted and 2 interceptions. He was used in the Raiders nickel defense and recorded 5 sacks in that role. He also recorded 4 sacks in a playoff win against the Cincinnati Bengals. Injuries limited the number of defensive lineman Madden had available so he used Hendricks as a stand-up defensive end, the position Hendricks played in college. At season's end the Raiders defense was among the NFL's top units, despite injuries to a few key defensive linemen. The Raiders led the NFL in interceptions and they ranked 2nd in the NFL in sacks, 7th in fewest points allowed, and were 3rd in total defense (which is fewest yards allowed).

The next year, 1976, Hendricks became a full time player with the Raiders, and the Raiders switched to a 3-4 defense early in the season. Hendricks played the weakside linebacker, since All-Pro Phil Villapiano played Hendricks' strong-side; he made 57 tackles, 6 sacks, knocked down 5 passes while picking off one and blocking 2 punts. The Raiders defense was 6th in the NFL in sacks but did not finish in the top ten in points allowed or total defense. The Raiders won Super Bowl XI, the first in franchise history, and the first of three Super Bowl titles in seven seasons. Hendricks was second-team All-Pro that year.

In 1977 Hendricks moved back to the strong-side linebacker position due to a Villapiano injury and made 56 tackles, 2 sacks and knocked down 4 passes. The Raider defense was 7th in the NFL against the run and tied for 3rd in allowing the fewest rushing touchdowns. They also tied for third in the NFL with 26 interceptions. Ted was second-team All-Pro in 1977.

In the 1978 season Hendricks recorded a stellar season with 78 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 interceptions, 8 passes defensed and 2 fumble recoveries. The defense tied for 4th in most interceptions in the NFL and scored 4 defensive touchdowns which tied them for 2nd most in the NFL. They were tied for 10th in fewest points allowed as well. Again, for the third consecutive season, Ted was second-team All-Pro in 1978.

By the end of the 1979 season, it appeared that "Kick 'em in the Head Ted's" (his Raider nickname) career was over even though he made 61 tackles with 3 sacks and picked off a pass, returning it 23 yards for a touchdown and deflected 13 passes. The Raider defense picked off the 8th most interceptions in the NFL and scored 4 defensive touchdowns, leading the NFL in 1979. However, in most major categories the Raiders did not crack the top 5. It seemed the defense was slowing down.

A vote among Raider coaches showed that all of them had voted to release Hendricks at season's end. However, owner Al Davis insisted on keeping Hendricks, and it turns out he was right. Hendricks responded with perhaps his best-ever season. He made 76 tackles with a career high 8-1/2 sacks, 3 interceptions (bringing his career total to 26) while batting 16 passes and blocking 3 kicks. The defense rebounded to #5 against the run in the NFL, #1 in intercepting passes, and were 3rd in sacking opponents quarterbacks, and 11th in the NFL in total defense and 10th in fewest points allowed. It was likely the best defense since 1975 based on the statistics. In 1980 he was a consensus first-team All-Pro for the first time since 1974 and he helped the Raiders to their win in Super Bowl XV while going to another Pro Bowl.

In 1981 the Raiders team offense slumped. The defense and Hendricks played very well. He had 71 tackles with 2-1/2 sacks and deflected 12 passes. The defense was 6th in the NFL against the run and racked up 52 sacks which was good for 2nd in the NFL. Rookie lineman Howie Long contributed to the resurgent pass rush along with Hendricks.

Hendricks was All-Pro and All-AFC in the strike-shortened 1982 season as Hendricks made 28 tackles and seven sacks in just nine games while he deflected 2 passes. The Raiders were 8-1 but were stunned in a playoff loss to the New York Jets. The Raider defense was as good as there was in the NFL for the 1982 season. They were 2nd in fewest rushing yards allowed and 2nd in sacking the opposing quarterback.

In his final campaign, 1983, Hendricks played less than at any point since 1975 but still managed to make his eighth Pro Bowl and was second team All-AFC while recording 41 tackles, two sacks and deflecting four passes. He also blocked the 25th kick of his career and was a part of the Raider's Super Bowl XVIII victory. The defense was again stellar as they were 4th in the NFL against the run, again tied for 2nd in sacking the quarterback, and fifth in total defense and 13th in allowing the fewest points allowed while being eighth in allowing the fewest touchdowns from scrimmage.

Hendricks was likely at his best over nine seasons with the Raiders. The Raiders gave him the freedom to roam the line, blitz on impulse, read the play and react. Opposing players had great difficulty keying on him. He could disrupt the other team's offense like few others. His 6'7" frame and long arms made him hard to pass against; it also helped his tackling and reaching the quarterback quicker on blitzes. He sacked opposing passers 42 times while in a Raider uniform and set a Raiders record of nine sacks in postseason games. During Hendricks' time (1975–83) with the Raiders, he led a great pass rush along with Howie Long, John Matuszak, Pat Toomay, Lyle Alzado, Reggie Kinlaw and Otis Sistrunk as the team logged 394 team sacks, second only to the Dallas Cowboys, which had 413 during that span.

Read more about this topic:  Ted Hendricks, NFL Career

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