Trey Hendrickson came to the Cincinnati Bengals feeling like he wanted to prove them right for taking a chance on him and believing his double-digit sack production last year wasn’t a fluke.
On Wednesday when the NFL announced him among those voted to play in the Pro Bowl, Hendrickson felt the reward of his hard work.
The former Saints defensive end was one of three Bengals to make the AFC roster. He was joined by rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and running back Joe Mixon. Chase was voted in as a starter.
“It’s a tremendous achievement,” Hendrickson said Thursday. “I’ve worked very hard for it, but I mean, I feel like I’m just really thankful and I give thanks to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my wife. She’s been such a supporter in my journey as a football player. My friends and family, they’ve been so supportive. They believed in me the entire time. It’s an emotional experience. You sacrifice a lot to play the game and to get recognition like that means a lot to me.”
Hendrickson, who signed as a free agent this offseason after four seasons in New Orleans, has 10 straight games with at least a half sack and sits at 13.0 for the season with three games left. He’s been a big part of the defense’s success, and the overall improvement on that side of the ball has been a key factor putting the team in a position to make a playoff push.
Cincinnati (8-6) sits in first in the AFC North going into Sunday’s clash with the Baltimore Ravens (8-6) in a game that will determine the division leader.
“I can’t think this organization enough,” Hendrickson said. “They’ve taken a huge chance on me, signing me, giving me a tremendous opportunity. The Brown family, the Blackburn family, they’ve meant so much to me and my family, and also this team. It’s a great defense I’m blessed to be a part of, and I have a tremendous amount of goals that I think we need to reach. It’s not the bowl game I want to go to. I’m just excited to play with these guys, and it’s nice to get the nod.”
Hendrickson had a Pro Bowl nod as one of the goals he had written down long ago, but he wasn’t alone in saying he has bigger goals to achieve.
Mixon and Chase both said their main focus is making the playoffs. Chase, who leads the team with 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns on 61 catches, said he didn’t even have the Pro Bowl in mind as a goal, and his dad was more excited for him than he was because he isn’t ready to celebrate any mid-year accomplishments.
“I was worried more about the playoffs than the Pro Bowl,” Chase said. “I didn’t have the Pro Bowl on there because I was trying to get to the Bengals to the playoffs, that was my biggest goal I wanted to happen.”
Mixon went a step further to say the team has talked about trying to get to the Super Bowl. Players from the two Super Bowl teams won’t be able to participate in the Pro Bowl, but all three Bengals Pro Bowlers would much rather be playing on the biggest stage with their teammates.
Sunday’s game against Baltimore could be a big step in getting there as a win greatly improves their playoff chances.
“That’s always the goal to start,” Mixon said. “That’s the most ultimate goal, so at the same time, everybody has that goal in mind. … It’s a great accomplishment for us around the building (to make the Pro Bowl), but, I’d rather play in the Super Bowl any day over a Pro Bowl, and like I said, that’s the ultimate goal. But, to get there, you’ve got to go through the process and the process is going through the Ravens. They are the team in front of us, and we’ve got to do whatever we can to go out there and take care of business on Sunday.”
Mixon topped 1,000 yards rushing for the third time in his five-year NFL career, but this is his first Pro Bowl honor. Helping the Bengals to a position where they could return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015 likely helped him, Chase and Hendrickson make a better case for themselves, as the team hasn’t had more than two players recognized since 2017.
Seeing the team success makes it all the more rewarding.
“It’s a great accomplishment, but at the same time without the people in front of me and the people that really contributed to me having the success that I’ve been having to reach the Pro Bowl, I mean, it wouldn’t happen without them,” Mixon said. “So I mean, I’m definitely very grateful for that.”
Ravens at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7