Left tackle Andrew Whitworth is retiring after a 16-season NFL career capped by his first Super Bowl championship last month with the Los Angeles Rams.
Whitworth made his long-anticipated decision official Tuesday, just over a month after the Rams beat his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals, to win his first ring.
"The Super Bowl was an awesome accomplishment," said Whitworth when asked if winning his first championship played a role in his retirement decision. "That's not the most important thing in the world to me. The most important thing in the world to me is that the people I've been around and live life with feel better being around me...Super Bowl trophies are great, Pro Bowls are great, Walter Payton Man of the Year is an amazing honor, but it doesn't mean anything if from this day forward me and my family don't treat people with the love and respect they deserve."
Whitworth turned 40 last December and became the oldest player to start at left tackle in the modern NFL. The two-time All-Pro selection protected Matthew Stafford's blind side all the way to a 23-20 victory in the Super Bowl at the Rams' own SoFi Stadium.
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He 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.
"On the plane over here [5 years ago], I looked at Melissa [Whitworth's wife] and told her we're going to build a culture [in Los Angeles] where we're going to win one day," said Whitworth of what was going through his mind five years ago on his flight from Cincinnati to Los Angeles to join the Rams. "For some reason I just had this feeling that something really special was going to happen. Five years later, we sit here and it's been maybe the greatest five years of my entire life."
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Whitworth also was selected the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year last season for his extensive community work and mentorship to younger teammates, along with his excellent play.
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 at the pinnacle of his career proved too enticing to the lineman and his family. Whitworth and his wife, Melissa, have four children.
"The warrior [in me] wants to go again," said Whitworth. "But the body just doesn't...it's time."
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.
Whitworth is a Louisiana native who won a national championship at LSU before the Bengals drafted him in the second round in 2006.
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.
"I feel like I've done my best in my 16 years to get these guys [his teammates] to believe in themselves," said Whitworth. ""Maybe I can't fight for them on the football field anymore, but I can fight for them in life."
Whitworth did not close the door on the possibility of returning to the Rams in some capacity one day, either as a coach, advisor, or in the front office.