Andrew Whitworth is the one who can appreciate the long and winding road that the Cincinnati Bengals took to reach their first Super Bowl in 33-years.
Los Angeles Rams left tackle will need to defeat his old team if he wants to win his first championship.
In 2006, the Bengals selected Whitworth in their second round. Whitworth helped the Bengals to six playoff appearances in eleven seasons, before he signed with the Rams.
“I told (Bengals coach) Zac Taylor when we talked Sunday night that both places have my heart and people that I believe in. It’s really special and a cool moment for me to get to play in this game and play against a place that means so much to me,”Whitworth stated.
Whitworth was still trying to see the last minutes of the Bengals’ AFC Championship game in Kansas City, even though he was preparing for the NFC title game.
Whitworth also remains close with Taylor, a Rams’ assistant in 2017 and ’18.
“Just watching them from afar this season has been exciting,”Whitworth stated. “I am excited for Zac and the city of Cincinnati. They are seeing what a great guy, leader, and coach he is. And then obviously there is the young talent they have added and how special of a player Joe Burrow is.”
Whitworth will take on the Bengals for the second consecutive time. They played in London in 2018. Five players and two assistant coaches remained on Cincinnati’s roster after Whitworth’s last season in stripes.
Whitworth was a guard and tackle position in his three first seasons in Cincinnati. He then moved to left tackle in 2009, where he has remained ever since. Whitworth was an All-Pro selection for 2015, and he made three Pro Bowl trips with the Bengals.
Whitworth was not only a great player, but he was also an important figure in the locker rooms. Whitworth was not only the team captain, but also was the Bengals player representative to the NFL Players Association.
Whitworth and Melissa participated in numerous community initiatives throughout the Cincinnati area. He is again a finalist in the Walter Payton Man Of The Year Award. This award will be presented during NFL Honors.
“From the time we were fortunate enough to draft him, what he meant to me as a player and as a rock in that locker room was outstanding,”Marvin Lewis, former Bengals coach, said. “He’s made every team he’s been on better.”
The Bengals thought Whitworth’s career was at or near its end going into 2017. Cincinnati drafted what it thought would be Whitworth’s replacement in 2015 with Cedric Ogbuehi in the first round. Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay had believed Whitworth was a good player and leader, so they signed Whitworth to a three year deal.
His first year in Los Angeles, 2017, Whitworth was an All Pro selection. He also helped the Rams get to the Super Bowl in the next season. Whitworth continues to prove that he is capable of playing all three seasons under his original Rams deal. He became the first ever offensive lineman to play at 40 in league history. Whitworth becomes the league’s active elder statesman with Tom Brady’s retirement on Tuesday.
Whitworth put up impressive stats, as well as leading the league in passing yards (44), and touchdowns (42). This season, he was Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked pass blocker at tackle and has allowed only 20 pressures in 625 pass-blocking snaps.
One person who continues to appreciate Whitworth’s longevity is McVay.
“It’s the damndest thing ever that this guy’s still doing it at the age of 40. It’s awesome,”McVay stated. “When you get around him, you’re not as surprised, but I can remember after that first year spending some time with him and their family. Melissa told me there’s no way he’s even playing past the second year. And here he is, a couple more contracts after that initial three-year deal.”
While McVay appreciates Whitworth’s leadership, Whitworth has enjoyed seeing McVay’s development as a head coach from a unique position since he is 4 years older than his boss.
“It’s very rare in this league to ever be older than your head coach, and by a pretty good bit. It’s even more rare to be with them at the start, watch the transition and then grow in their role and find out who they are,”Whitworth stated. “I couldn’t be more proud of him for that part, and how much he’s grown and I’ve gotten to be a part of it.”
Whitworth loves that the Rams are able to play at their home. This allows them to continue practicing at their Thousand Oaks facility and work out, while not having to stay in a hotel for one week. He will insist on one thing for his teammates: Enjoy the experience.
“I know what it feels like, at my age to play and keep up with these guys. And sometimes the only thing that gets me through it is realizing that I’m getting to do it, and I don’t have to do it,”He said. “What a cool opportunity it is to be where I’m at and stand where my feet are and enjoy the moment. I try to make sure all these guys keep that in perspective and realize what a cool opportunity it is and approach it that way sometimes, instead of always feeling like they’re obligated, or they have this burden on them to live up to expectations.”