Should there be a trumpet somewhere preparing for the eventual exhale of concern about Andrew Whitworth's status against the Chicago Bears? Perhaps the premature nature of that concern is just that, premature.
Undergoing offseason knee surgery earlier this year, we had expected that Whitworth would sit out during summer practices. Status quo. The plan is being applied. When training camp cam around, he practiced just as he said he would. Then he stopped practicing the first Sunday when the team dressed up for their first full contact session. Whitworth was hoping to strengthen his knee, to take it easy, not wanting to push things.
"You're still going to have some bumps along the road as far as football's a violent game, so you're going to have to get yourself used to working yourself back through things," Whitworth said last month. "That's why a lot of guys that have postseason surgery don't do a lot in the preseason sometimes just because you're kind of working through the whole deal of recovering from a surgery and trying to do football stuff. So we'll continue to have a plan to deal with it.
"The thing you can’t simulate is football. It’s getting out there and doing football, and with something like this – it’s a tendon – it has to do something and adjust and then do a little more and then adjust. That’s what we will do," Whitworth said. "It’s just like anything else, you have to develop the strength in it. This is kind of the first step in football. We’ll progress through that."
Understandable. It's a bad idea to risk the regular season by forcing the rehabilitation of an injury during the preseason. Whitworth practiced last week with the intention of playing against the Dallas Cowboys, but then stopped. He didn't make the trip against the Falcons, sat against the Titans and stayed in Cincinnati when the team made the trip to Dallas for Saturday's game against the Cowboys.
Now the Bengals are less than two weeks away from opening the regular season in Chicago. That means Cincinnati will play their final preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts this Thursday, make roster cuts soon after and then establish the regular season routine a week from today.
"I understand how to play, I know what I am good at and I have done it for a long time. Do I need to practice? I don't know, if you are coming back from surgery and you are going to push something a little too fast it becomes not a need because now you are doing more damage then you are doing positive," Whitworth said via Bengals.com.
One major obstacle appears to be more confidence-related than structural integrity. And reading his quotes, it reads as if he's more defensive about sitting during practice and the preseason, rather than the confidence on when he'll return like before. Perhaps it's exhaustion with repeated questions.
"It's going to be just making sure that as the doctor keeps telling me, we have plenty of track record that you are tough. It's not a tough thing, you need to take care of yourself. It's kind of getting in that mentality and trying to figure out the fine line in between that so you have steps back and you are going to have to have days where it's going to adjust and you are going to have to adjust with it. We'll figure out a way to make that happen."
Joe Reedy with the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote on Sunday that there are "increasing concerns on if" Whitworth will be ready for the regular season opener in Chicago.
One thing is certain. Backup left tackle Anthony Collins is holding his own.
"It's the best he's looked since he's been here," offensive line coach Paul Alexander said earlier this month. "A.C. has been terrific. He's sharp, he's polished, he's taking a million snaps and he hasn't complained once."
According to Pro Football Focus' preseason scores, Collins has generated a positive blocking score with only four quarterback hurries allowed and no sacks. However, the penalties have hurt. Collins currently has three flags, including a personal foul against the Tennessee Titans -- he's tied with Kyle Cook with the most infractions committed this preseason.