Andrew Whitworth, the Bengals de facto offensive captain during their run to five postseasons in the last six years, wants to know his status as he heads into the last year of his contract.
In the wake of the Bengals drafting tackles in the first two rounds of last week, Whitworth told reporters Monday that he would like an extension before the season and is miffed they haven't told him about his status
"It's not really top of the line customer service," said Whitworth, one of the major forces who kept the locker together in the transition year of 2011. "Eventually, hopefully, one day that conversation will be had and I'll be here."
Whitworth, the NFL's oldest starting left tackle, turns 34 in December but he's also coming off what he feels is his best of nine seasons. Profootballfocus.com graded him the best pass-protecting tackle in the league last year.
"At the end of the day, I am the captain and leader and I want to go above and beyond and do more than the average guy in this locker room and have always," he said. "It's hard to do that when that feeling is not reciprocated and is just a one way street. We'd like you to prepare two guys to be really good football players, we'd like you to be the leader of football team, but we'd also like to have the best situation possible for us. We'll talk to you when we want to." What we have here, it seems, is a failure to communicate. He indicated that no one from the club talked to him before the draft or in the day after they drafted Fisher in the second round.
"There' s not been a lot of discussion with it. I mean, if there's anything, I wish that there had been," Whitworth said. "But at the end of the day, I'm a big boy and I can handle it and this is my football team, I'm the captain of it and been the leader of it for a long time and don't plan on letting that change.
"It really didn't matter the draft picks or any of that. For me, it's more I would like to still be here. Whether that feeling is reciprocated, I don't know yet. I've asked but I haven't been responded to. I hope it is." Whitworth indicated he feels it wouldn't be right for the team to let him go into the last year of contract.
"It would be pretty easy for me to prove my contributions to this franchise over the last 10 years," Whitworth said. "And you've got that guy fighting for his life. I think I've earned more than that. But it's the NFL. I'm a big boy. I play football. I'll never allow outside situations to change who I am as a mentor. I'll be there for them that. That will never change."
And he has backed up his words.
Whitworth attended the Kentucky Derby Saturday night, but he got back to Cincinnati in time to host the offensive line's viewing party of the Mayweather- Pacquiao fight. He invited both rookies tackles, Texas A&M's Cedric Ogbuehi and Oregon's Jake Fisher. Fisher made it, but Ogbuehi had a flight back to Texas.
"All the guys came over, so there wasn't a lot of talk about that stuff," Whitworth said of football. "We had a chance for a minute before guys showed up to visit because he got there early and I had just got back from the Derby. So we had a chance to visit for a little bit. I'll get to know him more. I am who I am, so I'll do what I can to help him. But going forward I think they'll be good football players… Every year, it's nothing new. So it will be a great opportunity to train two guys who I think will be really good football players one day, so that will be great."
Whitworth has had at least two extensions since they drafted him in the second round in 2006. According to spotrac.com, the first one was a six-year, $32.8 million deal just before the 2008 season and then just before the 2011 season he signed up for two more at about $20 million, giving him a $9.7 million average that is seventh in the league among left tackles. What we know for certain is he'll get this year's take of $6.2 million.
But he's not taking anything for granted.
"I've tried to find out where I am. It's not about the extension as much as what's my status?" Whitworth said. "I'm sure my status is I'll be the left tackle this year. I'd be shocked if I wasn't. But outside of that I really don't know." EIFERT UPBEAT:Tight end Tyler Eifert might not get on the field full go until the mid-June minicamp, but he's on target to participate from the start of training camp. And it's a huge relief.
Eifert had a big smile on his face after Monday's workout. That will happen when you haven't been healthy in a year. He tore his labrum in late May during the first spring practice and sat out until training camp in an effort to play with it before having post-season surgery.
Then he dislocated his elbow in the first quarter of the regular season and instead of bringing him back late in the year, he and the club opted for season-ending surgery on the shoulder.
Eifert said his elbow has been cleared and he's waiting to get the same on the shoulder in a few weeks. He says he lost 15 pounds during the ordeal, but is back to 250 pounds and ready to put on a little more.
"It's nice to be pushing around some weight again," he said.
"I put it back on. I'm right around 250, maybe a little bit more. I'm still working on putting some more of that muscle back on, maybe a better 250. Still working my way up…Even coming into college I was skinny, so to put weight on I have to stay on the shakes and stay in the weight room. Even throughout the season here I have to keep pushing heavy weight just because it's hard for me to keep that weight on. Any time I go without lifting for three or four months, I'm going to lose weight."
If Eifert had any luck last year, it was all bad and it started right away in that first practice. This is why head coach Marvin Lewis is always harping, "Stay on your feet." The way Eifert remembers it, he dove for a ball and safety George Iloka fell on top of him.
"I tried to play through the year. Once I had elbow surgery and I wasn't going to come back, then I just got the shoulder done," Eifert said. "That's why I'm excited now because I'm feeling strong, feeling upbeat. I'm not in any pain. It feels good."
If it seems like only about two years ago when Eifert came in as a rookie, it was. Suddenly at age 24 he's the old man in the room with the selection Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah in last week's draft spelling what seems to be the end of Jermaine Gresham's Bengals career. Alex Smith, the 10-year vet who spent all last season injured reserve and played when Eifert was a rookie, also isn't coming back.
"I used to be asking Jermaine questions and know I'm in my third year and we've got two young guys and now they're going to be asking me questions," said Eifert, who hasn't seen the kids on tape yet. "So it's kind of crazy how things change that quickly. But I'm excited to have them. I'm excited to work with them.
"I'm confident in my understanding of the offense now. And having Alex Smith. He was good to have in here, too. I learned a lot from those guys. I'm confident with what I know about our offense. I think I should be able to help them out."
Eifert phoned up Gresham when he had his back surgery several weeks ago and says he'll miss him.
"I just checked up on him to see how he was doing. It sounds like he's in good spirits and staying positive," Eifert said. "It was always fun. I'll miss Jermaine. He taught me a lot and helped me out a lot. I wish him the best...With Jermaine in the room, I loved him, and I wish he was still here. But guys move on and now it's my turn to step up into that role and lead the tight ends. It doesn't change the way I do anything." To give you an idea of how bad it has been, Eifert, the Bengals' best golfer, hasn't played in nearly a year.
"I don't know when I'll be able to play," he said. "They said I could hit maybe some half shots, but I'm trying to stay away from that. I hit a couple of balls the other day, but it wasn't feeling great."