Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth seems reinvigorated, dipping into a fountain of youth and exhibiting renewed energy on the practice field. It's easy to pinpoint Whitworth in a sea of practice jerseys and Bengals helmets; his towering height and identifiable body type are recognizable. However, a dietary regimen and workout schedule eliminated significant weight during the offseason, forcing many fans, most of whom are seeing him for the first time, to do a double-take.
It's a contract year for Whitworth and he knows this could be his final season with Cincinnati. It makes sense to work today in preparation for tomorrow.
Yet, it began poorly, when Whitworth expressed frustration after the team used their first two picks on offensive tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. He was understandably worried about his future.
"For me, it's more. I would like my future to be here. Whether that feeling is reciprocated or not, I don't know," Whitworth said following the 2015 NFL draft. "I've asked, but I haven't been responded to." Whitworth added about his leadership role, going above and beyond, yet wondering why weren't they talking to him about an extension.
An accidental tweet from his account went out that week, virtually saying team owner Mike Brown told him that he was done with the team after this season, sending Bengals nation into an unexpected frenzy. Many fans expressed their loyalty and a quick disregard of his comments, honoring a leader who's done more than anyone else to keep this team together.
Some quietly shrugged their shoulders, regarding Whitworth's offseason with indifference. If he's such a leader, why is he complaining, fans would ask, willing to trash their support toward Whitworth for a team run by an owner who's never showed loyalty to fans.
In the end, the accidental tweet was a joke sent by Whitworth's wife after he bought a new phone and Whitworth expressed contrition about the entire episode:
"Monday was a tough day for me and probably handled it in ways I shouldn't have, to be honest," he said. "To me, it's about always trying to make decisions that reflect my leadership and who I am. Because I hold myself to a high standard, I wish I maybe handled it a little better. But the real truth is, at the end of the day, I love it here, I love leading these guys and our family has always been committed to that and always will be."
Months later, when Cincinnati took the field on Friday to conduct their first training camp session of the season, the re-made Whitworth capped his whirlwind offseason, going from controversy to rediscovery. At various stages in his career, the 33-year old has hovered around 330 pounds, but had reached 341 pounds in April. Now he's barely breaching 300 pounds.
It looks like it worked.
Whitworth appeared fleeter without sacrificing much of his strength; we'll see more of that when the team puts on the pads on Monday. During Friday's practice, Whitworth continued his energetic youthfulness by chasing down ball carriers after the play, then u-turning back to the huddle. On various short-yardage throws, Whitworth did the same.
Thankfully, the offseason is over.