Could the NFL have its first 41-year-old left tackle thanks to a 61-year-old hockey legend? While everyone has been assuming that Andrew Whitworth would walk into the sunset after a Super Bowl win, the 16-year veteran told NFL Total Access’s Mike Garafolo that while he’s leaning towards retirement, he will make a decision in a couple of weeks.
Whitworth also noted that it was Wayne Gretzky who gave him motivation to think of a return, saying “There’s only one thing better than winning one and that’s winning two.”
From @NFLTotalAccess: #Rams LT Andrew Whitworth told us he’s leaning toward retirement but Wayne Gretzky — yes, Wayne Gretzky — has him at least thinking about a return.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 24, 2022
“There’s only one thing better than winning one,” The Great One told Whitworth, “and that’s winning two.” pic.twitter.com/tjLMJ5raeP
The decision to play football next season is up to Whitworth, but the ability to play for the Los Angeles Rams has to be a joint decision. While I would not argue that the Rams don’t want Whitworth back—backup Joseph Noteboom is an unrestricted free agent, making it even more necessary to have a left tackle signed up for 2022—there are two distinct possibilities:
- They can’t afford his $9 million salary and $5.5 million roster bonus
- Whitworth refuses to take a paycut and/or asks for his release
Why would Whitworth do that? This is total speculation on my part but Whitworth had the rare opportunity to not just win a Super Bowl, he also won against the franchise he spent the first 11 seasons of his career with: the Cincinnati Bengals. The surprise Bengals went from 4-11-1 into Super Bowl contenders in the course of one year and the number one issue facing the team is the inability to protect quarterback Joe Burrow.
No active NFL player has started more games for the Bengals than Andrew Whitworth (164). pic.twitter.com/t5wy6Smdfk— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) January 31, 2022
The Bengals have 2019 first round pick Jonah Williams at left tackle but Whitworth could not only man that spot but serve as a mentor to him, as well as other key young linemen in Cincinnati like Jackson Carman, D’Ante Smith, Trey Hill, Isaiah Prince, and Trey Hopkins.
Or, of course, he could do that with the Rams and their own needs in 2022.
Bengals fans absolutely love Whitworth, but so do Rams fans—and Walter Payton Man of the Year fans for that matter—so the decision really is up to him. Thanks to Wayne Gretzky?