Hendrickson back with Bengals for first time since requesting trade

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI — Trey Hendrickson said he found himself at a crossroads where it was time to separate business with his love of football and playing for the Cincinnati Bengals. The latter was more important, even after he requested a trade over a contract dispute.

That’s what brought the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end back to the field with his teammates Monday for the first time in the 2024 NFL calendar year.

Hendrickson joined the Bengals for their offseason workout program right as the rookies were getting integrated into the team, and he was back for a second straight day Tuesday when media was able to attend practice.

“It was one of those things that at the time, all options are on the table, and as things unfold with the answers of what I was told, obviously in the business side of things, you kind of take it one day at a time,” Hendrickson said Tuesday. “And as each pillar fell, it’s like, I love this team, I love the coaches, I love the staff, I love this organization. It’s all the things I want to do is be here long term.”

Hendrickson said he was seeking more security for his family. He is set to make $14.8 million in 2024 and $15.8 million in 2025, according to OvertheCap.com, but none of that is guaranteed money.

Last year, the Bengals extended his contract to give him an extra year, through 2025, and a pay boost in the form of an $8 million signing bonus and a $5 million raise on his 2023 deal. Hendrickson said he doesn’t regret signing that extension, and he knows his ask for another one wasn’t good business for Cincinnati.

“I think my goal was to play here longer, so when they offered me a chance to play for Cincinnati another year, I would take it again,” Hendrickson said. “I’m not asking for a great business decision. I know that asking ownership, there’s not a lot of ways to cut it. I just know what I can do and how I can do it. And I think my tape has proven that over the last four years as a starter. And at the end of the day, I understand the business side and I’m not asking for good business decisions. At the end of the day, it’s just I’m not going to let the team suffer for that.”

Hendrickson said he never considered retirement, despite reports from his agent indicating that was an option for him, and it’s “a no-brainer” making the decision to play for the Bengals in 2024. He had been working out at Paycor Stadium early each morning even when he wasn’t participating in the voluntary sessions with the team.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Bengals gave a “pretty firm” answer on his requests for an extension or trade.

“I had a good idea,” Hendrickson said. “You kind of hope for the best. In football, you get what you earn in some ways and in other ways, there’s a business side of it and hard work works and I’m going to continue to work hard and the things we believe in, and obviously my wife is my best friend, and she’s great and she’s been so supportive in everything.

“Sometimes you have to make tough decisions, and I don’t think the team should deal with the negative side of helping me achieve my goals. It’s not an individual sport, so it’s not the team’s fault. They were kind of the reason I’m able to be talking to you guys like this and saying I had a good season. So I’m very blessed. I’m blessed to rush with these guys. I’m blessed to play on a great team and at the end of the day I think we can win a Super Bowl.”

Hendrickson’s $21 million annual average ranks 11th among edge rushers, but his 17.5 sacks last year were tied for second in the league and marked his second double-digit sack total in three seasons in Cincinnati. No other Bengals players had more than six sacks in 2023.

The seventh-year veteran said he wants to build the groundwork for another strong season, individually and as a team, in 2024, so it was time to “lock in and get ready for this season” and give everything he has. But, setting aside personal business isn’t easy.

“It’s extremely difficult,” Hendrickson said. “It’s one of those things that they don’t teach you at FAU (Florida Atlantic University). They teach you a lot. But I love football. I love the guys that we brought into this building. Like I said, I love the coaches and the organization, so separating that and the production side of football and obviously there’s no one that could have predicted the edge rushers being this way and things like that. So, the main thing I was asking is for security and things like that. And that comes with, as I continue to sharpen my sword, get ready for the season, I feel bigger, faster, stronger than I’ve ever been and I’m excited to play with these guys again.”

Hendrickson reiterated that he is at peace with where things stand, although the situation was frustrating.

He said it felt good getting back on the field with his teammates Monday with a “special” group of guys that “selflessly play for each other,” and he’s looking forward to being a part of bigger things in the future.

“In the NFL, I’m not the first player that’s ever been frustrated,” Hendrickson said. “I’m not going to be the last, and it’s not a personal attack on any organization at all. They’re running a business to produce, to win Super Bowls, just like I am working hard to individually take care of my own and help guys like Dax (Hill) be a better corner and help the rookies step to the plate and rush the passer better and be an example for other guys. So at the end of the day, it’s something that hard work works, and I want to continue to do that, be a part of a really awesome team and punch our ticket into the Super Bowl.”

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