Over the past couple of seasons, Andrew Whitworth has taken it upon himself to be one of the team leaders for the Cincinnati Bengals. His stellar on-field performance no doubt makes him a "leader by example", but it's been other instances where Whitworth has shown just how big of a figure he is for this team. With the departures of big name veterans like Chad Ochocinco, Carson Palmer and Terrell Owens this past offseason, Whitworth seized the opportunity to become a good example and a true team captain.
For instance, he and Domata Peko organized players-only workouts during this summer's labor dispute. At these workouts, the vast majority of rookies and veterans attended and participated. Granted, these workouts probably weren't as strenuous or structured as Training Camp or Minicamps would be, but the effort didn't go unnoticed. Whitworth also signed a big contract extension this offseason, which was huge for two reasons: it locked up the team's best player for a couple more years and maybe more importantly, it showed that Whitworth wanted to continue to play in Cincinnati, despite the turmoil that seemingly always surrounds the team.
Now he's got a new mission for his Cincinnati Bengals.When speaking with Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com recently, Whitworth explained that he and the 2011 squad are looking to remove the "doubt" that seems to take over this team, and has done so for the better part of the last twenty years.
"The biggest problem in Cincinnati is the doubt. There’s been that feeling where it’s another year where it starts out good, but it’s not going to end up good. You can sense that with everyone. I think when teams let that carry over into the locker room and what they do, it affects them. That’s the issue. That’s what we’re trying to change."
Preach it, Andrew. "Doubt" in Cincinnati is synonymous with "cynicism" and/or "expecting to lose". The worst part about this is that both players and fans are guilty of this doubt and cynicism when it comes to the team. We have all been accustomed to the disappointment that our beloved Bengals so often bring us. So much so that many of us can't fully appreciate what this 2011 squad has done this year because we are all waiting for the other shoe to drop while waiting for this team to hit a wall.
Well, guys like Whitworth, Chris Crocker or Andy Dalton are making sure that they dodge that wall and continue surprising everyone. The 2011 season has been the year of change and hope in Cincinnati and it's largely due to Whitworth leading the charge in changing the culture of this franchise. This weekend is as good as any to keep the momentum of change going.