Entering his 10th season, Whitworth says no end in sight

Entering the final year of his contract and 10th season of his career, Cincinnati Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth is making it clear he has plenty of quality football left in him.

“I don’t have any reason to think I would stop any time soon,” Whitworth said Monday afternoon as the Bengals entered their second week of voluntary workouts.

“Any guy in this room has the clock ticking,” he added. “You just never know when that comes. Right now, I don’t see any future where I am done soon.”

Whitworth has missed only eight of a possible 157 regular season and playoff games since the Bengals drafted him in the second round in 2006.

And since the beginning of the 2009 season, he has started 97 of 99 games. The only two he missed were the 2013 season opener while rehabbing from offseason knee surgery, and the Week 9 game later that year due to a strain the same knee.

That’s when Whitworth started hearing whispers, first from other people and from inside his own head, about him possibly nearing the end of his career.

“You mentally start to get to that point of ‘Yeah, how long am I supposed to play,” Whitworth said. “People tell I’m supposed to be done soon. But two years ago when I went through the thing with my knee and bounced back from that after that season and said, honestly, the rest of my body feels no different than it did the day I got in here. I said, ‘Man, I’ve got to stop listening to what people are telling me and just work and let my body tell me.’ ”

Whitworth rebounded from the injury problems in 2013 to have what he considered the best year of his career in 2014 despite the Pro Bowl snub.

“I’ve never given up zero sacks and no free hits on the quarterback in a season, and not many do, so, yeah, definitely a great year,” Whitworth said. “In every aspect of the game I got a little better last year. Honestly, I feel even better this year. I was still in that window with the knee injury for a year so. In the offseason I trained really hard but didn’t think I could fully do everything I do now.

“I worked out hard, but I didn’t run that much,” he continued. “This year I have done it all. This year is the hardest I’ve worked in my entire career this offseason. I’m excited.”

Whitworth said he doesn’t pay attention to mock drafts. He scoffs at them, actually.

But he said he knows what the perception is with him entering his 10th season and that the possibility exists for the Bengals to select a tackle in the first round Thursday night.

And his reaction to that is simple: Bring it on.

“I don’t think I’d be 10 years in the league and still feeling like I could play four or five more if I was worried about who is next,” he said. “I’ve always had the opposite mentality. Mess up and draft somebody at my position because you are going to sit around and watch him sit the bench. That’s always been my mentality.

“When I came into the league all they said was NFL stands for Not For Long, and I’ve always taken that as a challenge,” he added. “Not one year — my wife will tell you — do I ever feel like I’m going to make the team. That’s my mentality that I have to go earn a roster spot. This year is no different, and no year of my career has ever been different.”

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