Andrew Whitworth knows the game on this year’s schedule when he’ll turn 40 years old.
It’s a Week 14 road contest on Dec. 13 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Whitworth turns 40 years old a day earlier on Dec. 12.
However, entering his 16th NFL season, the 39-year-old veteran doesn’t take anything for granted; Whitworth knows he must make it through the league’s grueling, marathon season first -- which includes playing a 17-game season for the first time in his NFL career.
“If we get there and we have that opportunity, it would be a really cool feat,” Whitworth said. “Honestly, just playing my 16th season is the first thing to check off, and I can’t wait to walk out Week 1, and just the journey to get to that. I take it step by step, and I’m looking forward to this season. I’m excited about it.”
Whitworth was unable to do that in 2020, missing seven games during the regular season due a PCL and MCL tear in his left knee.
However, the hunger to get back on the field and speed of which he returned for the postseason confirmed Whitworth’s desire to play another year.
“As soon as I realized in the offseason that rehab and all of those things had gone really well and we felt like we were in a great spot, I knew I wanted to play the game mentally and, in my heart, so it was a pretty easy decision,” Whitworth said.
Of course, there were some financial considerations to take care of first.
“You’re sitting there, and you’re trying to figure out how to fit yourself under the salary cap,” Whitworth said. “And at the same time, I’m joking that, ‘Hey, if I would have stayed healthy, I would be asking you guys to double my salary. But unfortunately, I didn’t, so here we are and let’s figure it out.’”
The Rams and Whitworth’s representation did just that, coming to a compromise on a contract restructure that included a salary reduction from $7 million to $4 million in guaranteed money in 2021 for Whitworth, helping the Rams get under the salary cap.
Now, Whitworth is focused on returning to the Pro Bowl level form he showed before a knee injury derailed his 2020 season.
“It’s really about that individual mentality, what can you do to get better and get ready for the season,” Whitworth said, when asked about his goals this offseason. “I can remember Anthony Munoz when I was in Cincinnati was somebody I leaned on a lot as a mentor of mine, one of the greatest to ever play the game. And he used to always tell me the offseason is the time to be selfish.
“And what he meant by that is that it’s the time to really hone in what you do, and really fine tune those skills. So that when you get together in camp and in the season, it’s really about executing football.”
Last season, Whitworth created a home workout space in his garage due to COVID. Now that he has the space at home, Whitworth hosts all the offensive linemen for workouts during the week. He’s nicknamed the place “The Dojo.”
Whitworth said the biggest hurdle to creating his home gym was convincing his wife Melissa that it doesn’t rain very much in Southern California, unlike the couple’s native Louisiana, and that they could park their cars outside.
“I would say last year we probably had seven to eight guys that trained every day in the offseason in the gym,” Whitworth said. “And this year, I think we have every single guy except for the rookies. … It’s been fun these last few weeks, just all being together, having two workout groups.
“And the gym has grown over the year and a half substantially. We’ve got all kinds of nooks and crannies and gadgets in every corner, and every cabinet I can find is stuffed with some type of equipment I use.”
This offseason, part of the transition for Whitworth and the rest of his teammates has been adapting to new quarterback Matthew Stafford’s cadence and communication in the huddle, and his overall demeanor on the field.
“One of the things that Stafford has that Jared (Goff) couldn’t have had at this moment is experience,” Whitworth said. “When you’ve played eight, nine, 10 or 11 years -- you’ve gotten into a groove where how many coverages is there really that you haven’t seen multiple times? Played against multiple defenses and have had a lot of experience playing against different coverages and running different routes into those coverages.
“It’s just that experience. One of the things you can tell with him (Stafford) with the way he carries himself and the way we do things, he understands all the little nuances of things. And there’s just no way you can have those things without the time in the game, and without the experiences.”
Whitworth also has had to adapt to a new person at center in Austin Corbett and a new offensive line coach in Kevin Carberry.
“It’s been a little bit of a transition there,” Whitworth said about Corbett. “Obviously, in an offensive line group, there’s five guys your kind of used to working with. So, Corbett slides in there as someone we’ve worked with in the past and had to communicate with.
“It’s pretty seamless, as far as that stuff goes. You’re not getting a lot of crazy stuff going on that’s really going to be difficult this time of year. It’s more technique work and kind of working on the basics. And probably for him, learning the center position and those kinds of things, so I’m just trying to help where I can and help him in that process to explain that position.”
Whitworth said Carberry is taking his time to get to know the offensive line group.
“It’s almost like a feeling out process of time together,” Whitworth said. “It’s like, here’s some things we’re going to check and see where we are with these things. And him kind of getting to know us, and what he can help us with. And vice versa, us getting to know him and what we can help him with.”