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Amazon’s Andrew Whitworth teases NFL return as Bengals’ La’el Collins replacement: ‘Never say never’

The Bengals suddenly have a hole on their rebuilt offensive line, as right tackle La’el Collins suffered a torn ACL and MCL in Cincinnati’s Week 16 win over the Patriots.

Cincinnati’s improved offensive line play is partially responsible for the team’s midseason surge to the top of the AFC standings, and Collins had been playing some of his best football during that stretch.

Now, the Bengals will have to replace him. And while they have some internal options, at least one notable external option said he would consider returning to the team.

That would be Andrew Whitworth. The 41-year-old retired from the NFL following the 2022 playoffs after winning Super Bowl 56 with the Rams. He hasn’t been tempted to come out of retirement yet, but he said on “The Season with Peter Schrager” podcast that he could consider doing so to join the Bengals.

“I’ve said this since the day I retired, I’ll never say never,” Whitworth explained. “There’s always a chance.”

MORE: Latest update on La’el Collins’ season-ending knee injury

Whitworth played with the Bengals from 2006 to 2016. He started 164 of 168 games at left tackle and the 2006 second-round pick from LSU turned himself into one of the NFL’s best tackles before spending the final five years of his career with the Bengals.

Whitworth has since joined Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” coverage. And as he detailed, while he might have interest in re-joining the Bengals, a lot would go into a potential reunion.

“I love adventures,” Whitworth told Schrager on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football. “I love taking on chances. So, to me there’s always one.

Obviously, there’s a lot of things that would go into it. I mean, I’m technically under contract still with the Rams, and I’d have to, I’d have to kick off the old, uh, dust a little bit and see if I could see if these tires could still move a little bit. But you know what, I’d, I’d never say no to the option, but, you know, I don’t know. It’d have to be a sit-down convo with, with [my wife] Melissa and the kids and say, ‘Hey, can we do this again or not?’

Furthermore, Whitworth noted that he would face another challenge in becoming a Bengal. He would probably have to replace Collins on the right side of the line instead of playing his usual left tackle position.

“I think sometimes people don’t understand when you flip sides, what a challenge that is when you’ve only done it one way,” Whitworth explained. “And I’ve only played left tackle my entire career. So, when you flip your feet and play the other way, it’s very challenging. It’s almost like you’ve never done it before in some senses. There’s only a few guys that are good at it. So, for me, it really wouldn’t be about tarnishing the legacy. It’d be about I don’t wanna let those guys down.”

MORE: Mic’d up Andrew Whitworth tells his kids he’s retiring after winning Super Bowl 56

It doesn’t seem like the Bengals are holding out hope that Whitworth will return when considering all of those factors.

Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor was asked about a potential reunion with Whitworth and he pointed toward the team’s in-house options as the more likely replacements for Collins.

“We got good people in the building that we trust,” Taylor said, per the Dayton Daily News. “I think our scouting department does a great job of always evaluating our options. I always trust them if they bring somebody to you and say, ‘Hey, take a peek.’ We’ll always do that. But again, 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.”

MORE: Andrew Whitworth, Mike Florio clash after Whitworth-to-Cowboys rumors

As such, it appears that Hakeem Adeniji is going to start for the first time this season. The 2020 sixth-round pick out of Kansas made nine starts in 2021, all at the right guard position, but is looking forward to moving back to tackle.

“It was kind of new playing guard last year,” Adeniji told reporters Tuesday, per ESPN. “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.”

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