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WHO IS THIS MAD HATTER?
Paul Zimmerman
October 17, 1983
Once known as the Mad Stork, he's the peripatetic Ted Hendricks, the vintage outside linebacker who now hangs his hat in Los Angeles with the Raiders
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October 17, 1983

Who Is This Mad Hatter?

Once known as the Mad Stork, he's the peripatetic Ted Hendricks, the vintage outside linebacker who now hangs his hat in Los Angeles with the Raiders

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Hendricks considers his Packer season his finest in the NFL. He intercepted five passes, tops on the team, and blocked seven kicks, an NFL record—three punts, three field-goal attempts and an extra point. The extra-point block came against the Vikings. Fred Cox was going for his 200th straight. The kick made it, but Hendricks was offside. In those days it was a do-over. On the next one Hendricks blocked it.

In '75 Bart Starr took over for Dan Devine as Green Bay's head coach. Jacksonville had missed its first payment to Hendricks, thus voiding his WFL contract; he also was a free agent in the NFL. Hendricks told Starr he wanted his contract guaranteed. Starr said, "We have nothing to talk about." And the scramble was on.

Hendricks talked to Miami and to Atlanta and was talking to the Giants when a phone call came from Al Davis. "Don't sign, I'll top whatever they offer you," Davis said. The Raiders had to give Green Bay two No. 1 draft choices as compensation to get him.

"Al and I met with Ted and his agent in Oakland," Madden says. "Al said, 'His body looks undeveloped.' He started talking about a weight program. Ted laughed. He said, 'Al, when I grab 'em they're grabbed. I don't need weights.' "

Madden says his coaching philosophy was: "Be on time, pay attention, play like hell when I tell you to. As long as you do those three things, there's not a hell of a lot to fine you for." Hendricks says his own maxim was: "They never say you work football; they say you play football." And the Raiders certainly knew how to play, both on and off the field.

There was the day in camp when Madden called, "O.K., everybody up," and Hendricks came charging onto the field on a horse, in full uniform, with a traffic cone for a lance. "John didn't bat an eye," Hendricks says. "He could take anything." Another day the defensive backs walked off the practice field. "Where are you going?" someone asked. "We're going on our field trip," Skip Thomas said. And they lay down in the adjoining field.

There was George Buehler, the 270-pound guard, and his electronic machines. "He had this radio-controlled tank that he'd send to collect his mail," Hendricks says. "The tank had a little message on it: 'Place mail on top. Ask no questions.' Freddy Biletnikoff firecracker-bombed the tank one time when it was heading down the steps. 'Leave my tank alone,' Buehler told him. Blinky said, 'C'mon George, it's gotta be able to take some flak.' "

Oh yes, Hendricks fit in with this crew. At Halloween he showed up for practice in a pumpkin the equipment manager, Dick Romanski, had carved in the shape of a helmet, complete with face bar. One year he snuck a harlequin mask. a souvenir of the Dickens Fair in San Francisco, onto the field for a Monday night game, and TV caught him wearing it on the sidelines—red, toothy, ear-to-ear grin, long, pointed chin—flashing the peace sign. Al Davis tried to find out how the mask got onto the field. No one cracked.

"Here it is, I've still got it," Hendricks says, tipping over a huge packing crate so that the mask comes tumbling out, accompanied by hats, hats, hats—one of the alltime hat collections. "Do you know what this is?" he says, holding up a brown felt cone with star and crescent.

Sure, a sorcerer's hat.

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