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Hendrickson's Obsession With QBs Brings Him To Bengals: "He's Not Going To Back Down"

Trey Henderson sacking The G.O.A.T.
Trey Henderson sacking The G.O.A.T.

Trey Hendrickson, who reports say just became the richest Bengals free agent ever with his double-digit ability to sack the passer, says he's not consumed by money or stats.

"Not even fame," he says.

But quarterbacks are another matter and they are big reasons why he's set to be introduced Friday as the man the Bengals hope revives the pass rush.

Both offensive and defensive quarterbacks.

"I'm obsessed with quarterbacks," Hendrickson says. "If I'm not sacking them, they're my water break. It's a lifestyle. For a defensive end, everything has to do with quarterbacks. I'm fortunate to have such a great quarterback at the helm for us.

"If he's got the ball, we're in good standing," says Hendrickson of his moments on the sideline gulping water while watching Drew Brees and now Joe Burrow. "If I have to get him the ball back, I want to do it as quickly as possible."

Playing for the Saints put Hendrickson in ear shot of Burrow's 2019 Heisman Trophy season at LSU. That was a draw, not to mention the four-year, $60 million offer.

"That's all we heard for three months. There were more Joe Burrow jerseys than Drew Brees jerseys for a little while," Hendrickson says. "I had never seen that before. It's Drew Orleans. He's No. 9, too. How ironic. For him to make an impact like that … "

And then there are those defensive quarterbacks.

Free agents couldn't talk to coaches or front office personnel until Wednesday at 4 p.m., but Hendrickson made his call nearly two full days before that. He and his summer bride, Alisa, a doctorate pharmaceutical student, hit their laptops to research the best prescription for a couple of faith and a red-hot pass rusher coming off a year only T.J. Watt had more sacks.

But knowing that his old buddy from the Saints, strong safety Vonn Bell, is running things in the Bengals secondary along with Jessie Bates III, emerged as compelling first-hand evidence. Bell and Hendrickson spent their first couple of seasons in the league trying to get a foothold in New Orleans among a veteran group that perennially put the Saints in the playoffs.

"Cam Jordan. Demario Davis. Malcolm Jenkins. They were seen as the leaders (on defense) by the organization," Hendrickson says.

Now Bell and Hendrickson are the leaders in Cincinnati and Bell has the captain's "C," to prove it.

"Vonn being here speaks volumes. He was a captain without the 'C.' He's a leader and a good dude. We have a great relationship. We talked about waiting for our opportunities," Hendrickson says. "It sounds like both us are getting the dream we were talking about four years ago.

"Vonn and I are just hungry dogs ready to eat. In some ways we've just been sitting in the dark waiting for our chance to come into the light. A hungry dog eats."

Bell didn't hear about Hendrickson and the Bengals until Hendrickson texted when he agreed to the deal late Monday. But Bell was already done for the night with that notorious 4 a.m. wake-up call and 5 a.m. workout.

"I texted him we'd re-connect and talk all about it. It's great. They're bringing in one of those culture guys we're looking for," Bell says. "He'll be a great locker room piece and I think he'll do well for us. Hard worker. He comes to work every day with a purpose.

"He loves to work. He loves to be coached hard. Loves football. Has a high motor and he's got a relentless mindset. He's not going to stop. He's one of those guys that doesn't have any quit in him."

There were other reasons that helped Hendrickson bring his 13.5 sacks from New Orleans, not just quarterbacks.

Alisa's courses at Nashville's Lipscomb University are just about a 3.5-hour drive away. Bengals defensive lineman Margus Hunt, who played with Hendrickson briefly last season, raved about the city and the organization. And he figured if the Bengals were giving him all that money, they were clearly all in. He thinks the next two signings proved his point with cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie coming on.

"What a great opportunity to showcase my talent and skills in a growing defense and look what they're adding in free agency so far," Hendrickson says. "You can't say enough about it. They're bringing in the right guys."

But it sounds like it came down to newlyweds who were looking for a home as much as they were a team. Hendrickson, who grew up on the outskirts of Orlando, Fla., and played at under-the-radar Florida Atlantic, became attracted to the Bengals' family-owned operation in a small, industrious city.

"The real thing is there are not a lot of distractions," Hendrickson says. "There are a lot of places around the league where there are distractions and maybe not a great place to raise a family. But Cincinnati loves football and loves family. And its blue collar. Hard-working people. That's right up my alley. The stars just aligned."

Now Hendrickson is one of the stars, but he doesn't see bringing his 13.5 sacks to team with an NFL-low 17 sacks as pressure. He embraces bringing something back. He remembers those Chad Johnson-Carson Palmer Bengals, A.J. Green-Andy Dalton Bengals. Maybe not as much as his adopted hometown, but he watched the NFL growing up.

"Nobody wanted to play the Bengals, OK? They're a piece or two away from being really special," Hendrickson says.

 "It's looking like I can be a part of something and make an impact. I always felt that's more than just riding on somebody s coat tails."

Hendrickson's new defensive quarterback, the guy with the "C," on his jersey, says Hendrickson is going to be wearing one of the coats.

"He's not going to back down, Bell says. "He's not one of these guys that's going to back down. He's going to fight you and he's a work horse."