CINCINNATI — Don’t expect a reunion between the Cincinnati Bengals and former All-Pro tackle Andrew Whitworth.
Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor chuckled at the idea of luring Whitworth, who retired after last season, out of broadcasting to fill the Bengals’ void at right tackle. In so many words, Taylor all but ruled Whitworth out as a possibility.
“We have good people in the building that we trust,” Taylor said with a smile.
Taylor said starting right tackle La’el Collins will likely be out for the season after he suffered a left knee injury in the team’s win over the New England Patriots on Saturday. Taylor said the team is still gathering more information but it’s “not optimistic” Collins will be able to return.
In a podcast released Tuesday, Whitworth said any time an offensive lineman gets injured, his Twitter notifications get busy. That was especially true when Collins suffered his injury.
Whitworth retired earlier this year after he helped the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. The 41-year-old ended a 16-year career that included two All-Pro selections, four Pro Bowl nods and the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2021. After the Bengals drafted Whitworth in 2006, he played left tackle for Cincinnati for the next 11 seasons before finishing his career with a five-year stint for the Rams. Since retiring, Whitworth has been part of Amazon Prime Video’s NFL coverage that debuted this season.
In an appearance on “The Season with Peter Schrager” podcast, Whitworth said he has never ruled out returning.
“I think for me, just who I am, I’ve said this since the day I retired, I’ll never say never,” Whitworth said. “There’s always a chance. I love adventures. I love taking chances.”
However, he did note that he spent his career mostly as a left tackle and that making the transition to right tackle is difficult. Whitworth added that any decision to return would not be about tarnishing his legacy but not letting down future teammates.
“I wouldn’t want to go in there and mess up their chances, not knowing really what I’m capable of,” Whitworth said, referencing Cincinnati’s postseason odds.
With Collins likely down for the year, third-year player Hakeem Adeniji is projected to be Collins’ replacement for the rest of the season. Adeniji, who finished his college career at Kansas playing left tackle, has experience on both sides of the line of scrimmage. As a rookie, he made three starts at left tackle and one at right tackle. Last season, Adeniji started the final nine games, including Super Bowl LVI, at right guard.
“It was kind of new playing guard last year,” Adeniji told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s kind of more natural playing tackle. Having that full camp and early season as opposed to last year I definitely feel a lot better.”
Taylor wouldn’t make any declarations on the position for the team’s upcoming game against the Buffalo Bills on “Monday Night Football.” He said that if Cincinnati’s scouting department presents any potential options for new players, he will consider them.
However, the fourth-year coach reiterated the trust in those already on the roster.
“We’ve got guys that we’ve had in here developing, working in our system, that we’ve got a high degree of trust in that can help us do the things that we need to this year,” Taylor said.
In other injury news, the Bengals could have tight end Hayden Hurst for the big showdown against the Bills. Hurst has missed the last three games with a right calf injury. He was downgraded to out for the team’s Week 16 victory over the Patriots for precautionary reasons, Taylor said.
“I thought if we could give it another nine days, he’d be in great shape going into this week,” Taylor said. “So, very optimistic about him.”