Despite the Bengals’ struggles this season, Andrew Whitworth has been a bright spot throughout the year.
Whitworth, who turns 35 on December 12, is finishing up his 11th NFL season while still playing the all-important left tackle spot at a high level. Entering Week 14, Whitworth is ranked by Pro Football Focus as the second-best offensive tackle, trailing only Trent Williams, who is coming off a four-game suspension for PED use.
Since 2009, Whitworth has missed a grand total of two games due to injury as he’s been one of the game’s best offensive lineman. However, Whitworth is on the final year of his contract and at an age where retirement is always a possibility.
That doesn’t sound like an option for Whitworth, who made it pretty clear to Bengals.com that he’ll be back in 2017.
“I don’t see a scenario, barring some kind of injury, where I’m not going to play next year,” Whitworth said Monday. “I feel great. Physically I feel as good, if not better, than at any other time in my career. I’ve changed my body and put myself in position to play longer and be healthier to play the way I want to play.”
As you can imagine, re-signing with the Bengals will be Whitworth’s No. 1 priority, as he looks to be a rare player who spends his entire 10+ year career with one team.
“I’m going to play no matter what. Hopefully it will be a situation where I can return,” Whitworth said. “Of course our family loves Cincinnati and we would like nothing more to than to be back here. No one really knows what’s going to happen, but it’s always seemed to work out whether it’s good play by me or a good gesture by them … I’m going to do what I always do. Play hard, try and set a tempo, and let the cards fall where they. I think that’s probably what every guy should do.”
Whitworth actually gave the Bengals a scare this past Sunday when he suffered a right leg injury late in the third quarter. He was grabbing his knee after a play and was clearly in pain, though he did eventually get up and walk off under his own power.
With Whitworth out, Jake Fisher was inserted at left tackle while Eric Winston went in at right tackle. But then Fisher injured his knee and left the game, which led to Whitworth returning and finishing off the game.
As it stands, the Bengals should want to re-sign Whitworth next offseason with Fisher having very limited playing time so far, Winston becoming a free agent, and Cedric Ogbuehi struggling to do anything right.
All of this is why the odds are good that Whitworth is back in orange and black next season.