Preparing for Year 15
Reaching 15 NFL seasons is no easy task. Though Whitworth feels great on gameday, that doesn't mean he's immune from the mileage he's accumulated from all those games played.
"I may not be the happiest Monday through Thursday, but you know what, I find a way to get up again by the weekend and get rolling," Whitworth said during an early October video conference. "There's the usual aches and pains of being 38 and trying to play football, but the body has felt good every single Sunday and has responded really well every Monday. I feel good about that."
With his 218th start against the Bears, Whitworth moved past Mike Webster for 11th-most career starts by an offensive lineman in NFL history, per pro-football-reference.com. Now at 219 after last Sunday's game against the Dolphins, if he starts each of the Rams' remaining eight regular season games, he will pass former Falcons center Jeff Van Note (226) for seventh and move within one game of tying former Colts, Seahawks and Cowboys center Ray Donaldson (228) for sixth.
The time-honored tradition of veteran rest days has helped Whitworth get within reach of those milestones. However, what's been arguably most important is how he's taken care of himself during the offseason.
Playing well into his 30s at one of the game's most physically demanding positions puts him in rare company, perhaps in a position to give the advice rather than ask for it.
"I say this as humbly and respectfully as I can, I think I've outlasted most of them," Whitworth said with a laugh, when a reporter in August asked if he had solicited advice from other left tackles who managed to achieve the feat.
By Whitworth's observation, most of those left tackles' playing careers had ended in their early- to mid-thirties, but that doesn't mean he hasn't learned from them.
Watching players like Jonathan Ogden, Willie Anderson and Orlando Pace at the beginning of his NFL career, Whitworth's biggest takeaway was managing his health better as he got older. Whitworth estimated weighing around "345 or 350" pounds in the early stages of his career. Weighing 342 pounds at age 30, he made a commitment at that time to report to each successive training camp at a lighter weight – an approach that undoubtedly has aided the longevity of his NFL career. He said he entered this year's training camp around 314, 315.
"I mean, still today, he's developing as a player and just continuing to get himself leaner and quicker and faster," said Rams run game coordinator and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who has worked with three-time Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long and other greats at previous coaching stops, on the Rams Revealed podcast. "I would tell you that, there's a lot of times I bet you he feels quicker now than he did six years ago, because he really knows how to train, you become smarter, you know how your body works better as time goes on, you know what works for you better, those kinds of things. He's not slowing down."
The approach, according to Whitworth, is simply a combination of a disciplined diet and exercise.
"I'm a huge golfer, you guys know that," Whitworth said. "I try to train in the mornings and then I golf all afternoon. At night, it's usually a pick-up game with my kids, with my boys."