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Tackle (77) Andrew Whitworth of the Los Angeles Rams against the Chicago Bears during the Rams 24-10 victory over the Bears in a Week 7 NFL Monday Night Football Game, Monday, October 26, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (Jeff Lewis/LA Rams)
Andrew Whitworth still playing at a high level in Year 15
Even with more than 215 career starts under his belt, offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth has maintained an elite level of play. 
By Stu Jackson Nov 04, 2020
Photographs By Sarah Snyder, Jeff Lewis, Brevin Townsell/LA Rams, Michelle Minahen

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. –– He signed a three-year deal in early April to return for his fourth season with the Rams and 15th in the NFL, but offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth maintained he would be taking the same year-by-year approach as before.

The way this season has gone so far, he might be back for a 16th.

The 38-year-old Whitworth is still performing at a high level in 2020, able to withstand the physical toll that more than 215 career starts at both left tackle and left guard can take on a player's body.

"I feel good," Whitworth said during a video conference in early October. "I feel as good as I really ever have. I feel great out there and I feel good week-to-week."

To hear his teammates tell it, it doesn't come as a surprise. They and head coach Sean McVay would also tell you his leadership has been just as valuable as his performance.

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 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."

Making the grade

Analytics and third-party scouting services will tell you Whitworth has graded as the best, or among the best, at his position.

Entering Week 9, ESPN analytics says Whitworth has the fourth-highest pass-block win rate (94 percent) among offensive tackles in the league this season. Entering Week 8, Pro Football Focus (PFF) said Whitworth had the most pass-blocking snaps (239) without allowing a sack among all offensive tackles. PFF also evaluated Whitworth as the highest-graded offensive tackle (90.1) entering Week 6.

Unsurprisingly, his elite play also passes the eye test of his teammates.

"I think he's playing at the highest level I've seen in my four years with him," offensive lineman Rob Havenstein said during a video conference on Oct. 22.

"I think he's playing at the highest level I've seen in my four years with him."

Havenstein was among a handful of offensive linemen who worked out with Whitworth in his garage-turned-home gym this offseason when the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily closed facilities. For him, what's stood out the most about Whitworth is his day-to-day approach.

"His routine, the way he thinks about things, the way he thinks about his game, his recovery and his week, to do that for 15 years is impressive," Havenstein said. "Obviously, there's some gold in there."

With Whitworth protecting his blind side, Rams quarterback Jared Goff has been sacked on just 4.4 percent of his pass attempts, according to (minimum 1,500 career attempts).

Like Havenstein, Goff is also appreciative of the example Whitworth sets for the rest of the team.

"We've said it for a long time, the way he goes about his business every day is special and really sets the tone for us as an offense and as a team," Goff said during a video conference earlier this month. "I mean, just seeing him here every day, seeing him do the right thing every day, the way he practices, the way he goes through walk-through, the way he thinks about things and talks about things is at the highest level in the league."


One could make the argument Whitworth's leadership is also a reflection of his elite performance. Whether it's been mentoring a second-year offensive lineman or taking a young linebacker under his wing, he has always made time to help put the Rams' young players in position to succeed.

For example, when Rams linebacker Terrell Lewis was asked which players he leaned on a lot as he prepared to make his season debut in Week 5, he pointed to Whitworth.

"Big Whit's been helping me a lot, always coming and coaching me up, whether it be in practice or even during the game. Shoot, I just talked to him in the training room," Lewis said during a video conference earlier this month. "He always stays on my hip, telling me, 'Okay, what am I looking at?' He also gives me an offensive lineman's perspective, and I think that really helped me a lot too, just being able to lean on him, ask him questions, get a feel for the game (by) talking to a guy who's been in the game for a long time."

Whitworth's leadership in his own position room has been just as valuable, of course.

When David Edwards was preparing to make his first career start last year, Whitworth pulled him aside during individual drills to help him work on a particular type of block. Now in a starting role again this season, Edwards holds Whitworth's wisdom in high regard.

"Playing next to Andrew, there's not a situation that he hasn't been in," Edwards said during a video conference earlier this month. "The advice of watching film as a group, and then going out on the field and saying, 'What do you think about this? How should we hit this block?' Just the level of mastery that he has in every situation or scenario is huge for me, because he allows me to play with a quieted mind, knowing that I have a great guy next to me on the left side that's been through it all."

"Just the level of mastery that he has in every situation or scenario is huge for me, because he allows me to play with a quieted mind, knowing that have a great guy next to me on the left side that's been through it all."

Even the Rams' 34-year-old head coach, Sean McVay, has learned from the veteran offensive lineman.

"I think (Whitworth mentoring Lewis) is everything," McVay said during a video conference earlier this month. "I mean, when you got the right kind of leaders, that just emanates throughout your whole locker room. You look at Whitworth, the experience that he has, I mean, shoot, I know me as a coach, I've learned so much from these veteran players that I have taken all these snaps, especially when you're as conscientious as Andrew Whitworth is."

Players like Lewis and Edwards have made this the youngest Rams roster of Whitworth's tenure. While they've gladly welcomed his advice and wisdom, he's gotten just as much out of talking to them.

"Even though there's this huge gap, I think there's an opportunity there for me that I don't want to miss to help them grow as men and help them grow as players," Whitworth said. "I think it's one of those things that takes a little bit off of what you talked about, whether it's my last year or not, or how my body feels – those guys are invigorating to me. I get to come and listen to their wonders and the things that they're worried about and the things that they're thinking about, and tell them a little bit about the other side of it."

Year 16?

Any decision on returning for a 16th NFL season is likely still a ways away for Whitworth, especially since it's only the midpoint of his 15th and the Rams are still in the playoff picture.

Whitworth said during a video conference last week that when he talks about a year-by-year approach, he means treating each year as if it's his last one, both with his in-season and off-season training. He believes that's what's allowed him to reach Year 15, though the longevity isn't the focus so much as evaluating whether he feels he can continue to play the left tackle position at the standard he expects.

"I'm never thinking about the longevity of a contract or what can happen," Whitworth said. "I'm really more treating it like man, any day, somebody could take another step and be better than me and they want to put that person in. And so when I say year-to-year, it's more the mentality to me of who's over my shoulder, and what can I do to prove that this position is still mine, and there's still a value for me to be on this football team? The rest of the season, the last half of the season, I want to go and prove that, and then after the season's over, if they want me back and I feel like the body can do it and all those things, then of course I'll sit down and make that decision."

That decision will likely be made in consultation with his family, as has been the case in recent years – though that won't necessarily make it easy.

"If my kids had their pick, I don't know if I'd ever get to retire. They get mad any time I even bring up the subject," Whitworth said. "They don't want me home, they want me playing. So we'll see what happens."

Like his children, his teammates are also rooting for a return and want him around as long as possible.

"I'm just looking forward to the four more (years) he's got," Havenstein said.

"I'm extremely thankful for him, and I'm hoping he can play another 15 years," Goff said with a smile. "I know that's not possible, but I'm going to keep being thankful for him as long as he's here."

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