Dwayne Hendricks is a serious hitter now that he's not substitute teaching

Every day at practice, Dwayne Hendricks gets to club offensive linemen and throw a shoulder into ball carriers. He’s very thankful for such opportunities because a few months ago, for the first time in his life, he couldn’t be as physical on the job front.

With the NFL in a lockout as owners and players squabbled over a new collective bargaining agreement, the Giants’ defensive tackle served as a substitute teacher and day care worker in his hometown of Millville.

It was “Kindergarten Cop,” NFL style.

“It was crazy. I didn’t know what to do,” the 6-3, 305-pound Hendricks said the other day. “Kids are running around, and you don’t know how to handle it. I couldn’t put my hand on them because I didn’t want to hurt ’em. You have to be real careful because those little kids are fragile.”

With the labor issues well behind him, Hendricks is back to his normal line of work. And two weeks ago, when Jimmy Kennedy was suspended four games for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, Hendricks became the newest addition to the active roster when he was signed off the practice squad.

An undrafted free agent from Miami in 2009, Hendricks was inactive 13 days ago against the Bills, might not dress tomorrow against the Dolphins or over the next two weeks and could head back to the practice squad when Kennedy returns.

But it all beats the alternative, even if his temporary job taught him some valuable lessons.

“It’s like a switch, you have to learn to turn the aggressiveness off. And I had to turn it off a lot,” said Hendricks, who taught everything from physical education to English on the high school and elementary levels. “You can’t say stuff you normally say in the locker room to little kids, even high school kids. You have to watch what you say. So it helped me grow as a person.

“It was hard, but it was a good experience.”

As is being on the Giants’ practice squad.

Hendricks said a lot of the South Jersey teams he faced in high school ran the old “Wing-T” offense, a run-heavy scheme that features misdirection plays. And after tearing his ACL in college, he played primarily on first and second downs, meaning he didn’t have to diagnose run/pass reads as much as is required of an NFL defensive lineman.

But even in practice, he has improved in such areas.

“He’s developed a lot since he first got here,” veteran defensive tackle Rocky Bernard said. “He was a little undersized, so he got in the weight room and bulked himself up. He’s just one of those guys who just keeps quiet every day and works hard at it.”

And after being in a classroom for much of the late winter and spring, Hendricks is motivated to work even harder on the field. Plus, he appreciates looking at his pay stubs: installments of a $375,000 base salary while he’s on the active roster and a weekly rate equivalent to a $96,900 salary while he was on the practice squad.

“You go from seeing one check to a much smaller one,” Hendricks said of the drop in pay he took while teaching.

“People say you’re on practice squad, you don’t make that much, but it’s a lot more than the average person.

“I just take it every day like it’s a blessing to be here. Just to be on a practice squad is a testament to itself.”

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