Rams offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth: 'It feels like' 2021 season will be my last in NFL

Andrew Whitworth has considered retirement for some time now, but promised himself nearly a decade ago he'd give every effort possible toward playing until the milestone age of 40.

That milestone is nearly here. Whitworth will begin his 16th NFL season this fall with the same team he's known since 2017, the Rams. It might end up truly being his last.

The veteran tackle said as much during an appearance on Chris Long's Green Light Podcast in which he reflected on a turning point in his career in 2013 following a patella injury.

"I was like, if I get through this, I want to try to play until 40," Whitworth explained to Long. "And that was just like -- I didn't think that was realistic or that it'd ever happen. But I was like, I want to try to do that.

"So this year, to me, it feels like this is it. This is like, I've put everything into trying to play this season and play at the level I want to. I feel like this will probably be the end, but I mean, all my closest friends would tell you that I've said that for about seven straight years. So I don't know how believable that is, but it feels like it is."

Whitworth's disclaimer at the end means 2021 isn't exactly the retirement tour we've seen from notable athletes in other sports (i.e., Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter), but very well could be his final NFL campaign. He's far from the only athlete to attempt to play to 40 or beyond, with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady most famously passing that mark and aiming for 45-years-old.

Whitworth's position includes responsibilities that are vastly different from Brady's, though, and his career hasn't come without trips to the trainer's room and beyond. Just last year, Whitworth suffered a knee injury that robbed him of nearly half of his season and a chance to return in time for Los Angeles' pivotal Week 17 game against Arizona, a contest the Rams won without him to reach the postseason. He was able to come back for the Rams' playoff push, playing 92% of Los Angeles' offensive snaps in a 30-20 win over the Seahawks on Super Wild Card Weekend and taking 100% of the Rams' snaps in their Divisional Round loss to the Packers.

Though he'll turn 40 in December, the four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro has long been considered a rock-solid tackle who has remained the grizzled face of the Rams' strong offensive line. Age hasn't produced a regression expected in most players who are on the other side of 35, as his Pro Football Focus grades have largely remained stable for the last nine seasons. He's not just a fan favorite sticking around for one last dance.

Tackle takes a physical toll on a player's body, though, so it's understandable if Whitworth is peeking at a life after football. He'll likely be told by his body whether it's time to hang it up following the 2021 season. For now, it's business as usual for one of the most dependable blockers of his generation.

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