Check out photos from Day 6 of the Los Angeles Rams OTAs.
Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth is the oldest player on Los Angeles' roster by a fairly significant margin. He turned 36 last December while in the midst of another terrific season — his first with Los Angeles.
But a streak of sorts came to an end in the last quarter of the season as well, when Whitworth received a game of rest in Week 17 against the 49ers. Prior to that, Whitworth had started 70 consecutive games, dating back to 2013 when the offensive lineman was in Cincinnati.
While it is a significant streak for any player — especially an offensive lineman — Whitworth downplayed its importance in relation to what L.A. was chasing at the time. And he related his streak to now retired Browns left tackle Joe Thomas.
"Obviously what Joe Thomas did was tremendous," Whitworth said this week, referring to Thomas' streak of over 10,000 consecutive offensive snaps played to begin his career. "But I think of it back to my career, even, it's like [there have been] a lot of games it was either a situation where I was sat because we were up big in a game, or sat because we had made the playoffs, and some of that type stuff. So at the end of the day, I think for me, just being in a winning situation and having the opportunity to win division titles and stuff is, obviously, something that means more to me than the streak, I guess you could say.
"But we were actually talking about it the other day — because I was thinking about Joe playing 10,000 and I was thinking, shoot, I've got to be somewhere close to 11 [thousand]. That's my guess, because I know I've played in 183 games — of just pure snaps, I'm somewhere around there," Whitworth continued. "So it's crazy to think about — it really is. John Sullivan had to make me feel bad the other day and told me I've spent over a year of my life in an NFL training camp — so I started thinking about that, too, and I felt old quick."
Even if Sullivan made Whitworth feel his age, the left tackle doesn't look it. He's been as active as ever during Los Angeles' OTAs over the last two weeks, leading the offensive unit by running from drill to drill, competing at the line of scrimmage in both pass protection and run blocking.
Whitworth said even as he enters his 13th year in the league, he's finding that each season is different.
"I'll tell you what, this year's been special. This offseason, guys have really worked hard. It's been one of the best I've been around as far as guys just really putting in the effort and the energy of just the task of every day, trying to find something to get better at," Whitworth said. "I've really been impressed with how this group has trained. So everything has to continue day in and day out, but if anything, the first five or six weeks of being here, you can really see that this team has got a mission."
As one of the unquestionable leaders on the team, Whitworth said that kind of culture gets established from the top down. But while it starts with the coaching staff, it's up to the players to make sure everyone is truly held accountable. Whitworth is certainly a significant part of that from a player standpoint.
"Ultimately, it's up to the players to carry on that culture and to cultivate it, and to keep day in and day out, pushing each other to make that culture grow even stronger," Whitworth said. "All the coaches really can do is give you direction. It's up to us to handle it and make sure it moves in the right way. And, I'll tell you what, all these guys have done a tremendous job of coming in every day, working extremely hard, and putting their heads down and realizing the only thing that matters right now is us getting better."
But in setting the culture, Whitworth knows he's a mentor to many of the younger players — especially those on the offensive line. That's a role he embraces, taking care to not be overbearing in the process.
"I think you just be there for them and help them with little tidbits throughout the day," Whitworth said. "They get to see how we tick and how we operate. And they get a chance to hear and listen — even in our room, with coach [Aaron] Kromer — just how we dialogue together. And hopefully, that creates an atmosphere where they kind of understand more how they can improve every day, and what they can be looking to try and concentrate on as they're playing."