Once a Boston writer asked Hendricks, "Ted, are you a flake?"
"Who calls me that, Ed Garvey?" he said. "I prefer to be known as an iconoclast."
He has always had a strong dislike for Garvey and the Players Association. In 1980, when the union threatened to have Hendricks suspended for nonpayment of dues, the Raiders anted up $1,322.18, two years' worth, without a murmur. They have also been known to bend their fine schedule for him.
"Once he missed bed check in camp," Madden says. "I called him in the next morning and told him I was going to fine him. He said he'd missed it because he'd gone out with Marv Hubbard. Hubbard had just been cut; it was his last day, and he wanted someone to go out with him. So I didn't fine him. I would have done the same thing.
"I'll tell you how it is with Ted Hendricks. Whatever he has in him, he will give it to you on the field Sunday. You are going to get every last bit. There's no reason to mess with a guy like that. Hey, I've never even seen him limp."
Still, it took a while for the Raiders to realize what an exceptional package they had in Hendricks. In '75, he mostly sat on the bench. The Raiders realized their mistake in the first playoff game, against Cincinnati, when an injury in the final game of the regular season to Defensive End Tony Cline forced them into a 3-4 defense. Hendricks started as the utility linebacker and sacked Ken Anderson four times. "Today," Cincinnati's Paul Brown said, "he earned his entire season's salary."
Hendricks refers to that '75 season as The Valley of Fatigue. "In one game against Denver we were losing 17-7, and Monte Johnson pulled a muscle in his back. They took him off on a stretcher. I went in there, and I didn't even know the defensive calls. Shinnick was the linebacker coach, yeah, the same guy I had replaced in Baltimore, and he hadn't even told me the signals. I had two calls—zone and man-to-man. But hey, we shut 'em out the rest of the way and beat 'em 42-17. Next week I started. Shortest start in history. One play. Johnson made a miraculous recovery and came in for me after one play. Yeah, you're shaking your head. That's what I did, too, shook my head."
"Well, he played some that year," Madden says. "Special situations. We got him in there.... Oh hell, we just made a mistake. Coaches are superstitious; they're reluctant to change something that's been working. You make mistakes. You're human."
The players took to Hendricks right away. They named him Kick-'em-in-the-head Ted, a handle supplied by Linebacker Dan Conners, who had played in college against a Ted Cooper, who was so nicknamed. For Hendricks it was soon shortened to Kick-'em.
He was a starter in '76, but from then until '79 his work load gradually diminished. The Raiders went to a 3-4 defense. Hendricks became a rover, and they would lift him on third and long. In 1980, Charlie Sumner took over as defensive coach and Hendricks became a full-timer, the focus of a Super Bowl defense known as The Boys of Sumner.