Could Andrew Whitworth Be Hanging Up His Cleats?

Jun 8, 2021; Thousand Oaks, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) participates in drills during mini camp held at the practice facility at Cal State Lutheran. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Long-time left tackle Andrew Whitworth announced that 2021 may be his final season in the NFL on Chris Long’s Green Light Podcast earlier this week. The former Cincinnati Bengal and current left tackle for the Los Angeles Rams, who will turn 40 in December, will be entering his 16th campaign in 2021.

Whitworth, who missed seven games in 2020 due to a knee injury, set a goal for himself to play in the NFL until age 40. The goal was set after he had obtained a rather severe injury a few years back. “I set a goal in 2013, “ he told Yahoo Sports. “I had a patella injury and just was getting kind of frustrated with it, and I was like, ‘If I get through this, I want to try to play ‘till (I’m) 40.’ I didn’t think it was realistic or that it’d happen, but I was like, ‘I want to try to do that.’ This year, to me, it feels like this is it. I’ve put everything into trying to play this season and playing at the level I want to. I feel like this will probably be the end, but also, all my closest friends will tell you that I’ve said that for about seven straight years, so I don’t know how believable it is, but it feels like it is.”

Whitworth’s contract will take him through the 2022 season, as he is in the second campaign of a three-year extension worth $30 million that he signed in 2020. After being drafted by the Bengals in 2006, he joined the Rams in 2017 through free agency.

The details of the injury that caused Whitworth to miss seven games last year are rather gruesome. According to an MSN Sports article, “He had an MCL (medial collateral ligament) tear with PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) damage that cost him the last seven games of 2020, but he still battled his way back to return for the Rams’ playoff run. Despite his advanced age, he’ll be counted on to be a big part of Los Angeles’ new-look offense with Matthew Stafford under center.”

He also has drawn comparisons to other players who have long tenures in the NFL. But the tackle position has different requirements for long tenures compared to other positions.

In an article, “Whitworth’s disclaimer at the end means 2021 isn’t exactly the retirement tour we’ve seen from notable athletes in other sports (i.e. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter), but very well could be his final NFL campaign. He’s far from the only athlete to play to 40 or beyond, with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady most famously passing that mark and aiming for 45-years-old.”

While that tenure comparison is impressive, positional differences have created different requirements for Whitworth. And it could be possible that he could expand his football story post-2021.

“Tackle takes a physical toll on a player’s body, though, so it’s understandable if Whitworth is peeking at life after football. He’ll likely be told by his body whether it’s time to hang it up following the 2021 season. For now, it’s business as usual for one of the most dependable blockers of his generation.”

Andrew Whitworth, through all the adversity of his knee injuries, has been an anchor on the offensive line wherever he’s played. And with 2021 possibly being his last season, he will more than likely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.