A month after Andrew Whitworth reached the pinnacle of his long football career, he decided to go out on top.
The 40-year-old left tackle announced his retirement Tuesday after a 16-season NFL career capped by his first Super Bowl championship last month with the Los Angeles Rams.
“The warrior in me wants to go again, but the body just doesn’t,” Whitworth said. “The body is tired. As driven as I am ... it’s just time to realize while I still have the spirit and the fighting attitude that maybe there’s new people and new things, new ways that I can fight.”
Whitworth made his long-anticipated decision official 30 days after after the Rams beat his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals, to win his first ring. He tried to keep his farewell news conference a secret, but several appreciative teammates still found out about it and showed up at the Rams' training complex, including Matthew Stafford and Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp.
Whitworth became the oldest player to start at left tackle in the modern NFL after he turned 40 last December. The two-time All-Pro selection then protected Stafford's blind side all the way to a 23-20 victory in the Super Bowl at the Rams' own SoFi Stadium.
While almost nobody thinks Whitworth's play has slipped significantly, he recognized his body is wearing down, and he wanted to get out in front of it — like any good left tackle, of course.
“Over time, I started to feel that I didn’t want to be a disservice to my teammates with starting to lose the ability to truly be out there, giving them what they deserve,” Whitworth said. “I would never want that for them. I want them to be successful, and I want every dream they ever had to come true. If I'm in the way of that at all, that would be one of the worst things I could ever be a part of. It was just realizing it was time from a body standpoint.”
Whitworth said as recently as December he hoped to play out the next year of his contract with the Rams in 2022, but the opportunity to go out on a championship proved too enticing to the lineman and his family. Whitworth and his wife, Melissa, have four children.
Whitworth spent his final five seasons with the Rams, who signed him shortly after hiring Sean McVay as their head coach in 2017. The massive offensive lineman was the cornerstone of McVay's transformative offense in Los Angeles, leading the team to five consecutive winning seasons, four playoff berths, three NFC West titles, two Super Bowl appearances and one championship.
Whitworth also was selected the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year last season for his extensive charitable work and mentorship to younger teammates, along with his excellent play. While a broadcast career seems an easily achievable goal for the talkative, avuncular lineman, Whitworth plans to remain deeply involved as a community leader.
“You want to feel real inadequate, start looking at what Andrew Whitworth has accomplished,” McVay said. “I can’t think of anything that epitomizes our team better than the way Andrew leads. He’s the kind of guy that you want to be better for, because of the way he treats everyone he comes in contact with.”
Whitworth is a Louisiana native who won a national championship at LSU. He then played more snaps than anyone in the league during his 16 years in the NFL.
The four-time Pro Bowl selection's career began with 11 seasons in Cincinnati, which drafted him in the second round in 2006. He started his career on the interior line before moving to left tackle in 2009 for the Bengals, soon establishing himself as an excellent all-around blocker and a top left tackle.
After he landed with the Rams, Whitworth was a team captain in each of his five seasons on the West Coast.
One day before Whitworth's long-expected announcement, the Rams re-signed Joseph Noteboom to a three-year, $40 million contract that could be worth up to $47.5 million through playing time incentives. Noteboom has spent the past four years largely as Whitworth's backup, and he has been a capable replacement whenever Whitworth was slowed by injuries.
Whitworth’s retirement will save the Rams about $16 million against the salary cap, and the champs will need that room to bolster their roster for another title run. He was due a $3 million roster bonus on Saturday.
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