ATLANTA - At the pinnacle of his 13 NFL seasons, Monday night's hype-fried opening extravaganza of Super Bowl week, Rams left tackle left Andrew Whitworth left some time for nostalgia and dropped a reminder that those first 11 seasons as a Bengal left an imprint of stripes.
"They're happy for me and to have them reach out is awesome," said Whitworth of the texts that have rolled in from his ex-mates since last week's win in New Orleans. "I see a lot of those guys are a part of who I am and what I've become to this day."
It's been an offseason of change in Bengaldom and Whitworth is quite gratified that Bengals vice presidents Katie and Troy Blackburn and director of player personnel Duke Tobin still found time to send congratulations.
"Very excited about that. It's just cool to hear from them and for them to be happy for me," Whitworth said. "Obviously what they've meant to us over the course of my career."
Whitworth was on six of Marvin Lewis' seven post-season teams, so his departure last month meant something to him, too.
"You see it happen every year. Stuff like that happens. People make decisions," Whitworth said. "It's shocking to see him go, but, man, what a great time. What a great job he did there in the community and everything else."
They had to bring in the man from the Weather Channel Monday night to help cover those naturally-occurring phenomenons known as the Whitworth family and the Rams' relentless offensive scheme.
His inexhaustible wife Melissa and their four kids seven and under (led by the 2011 Lock Out Twins) are the subjects of a week-long TV special and while the kids screeched and careened around him (Dad Whit was one of 10 Rams deemed worthy enough to sit on a riser during Media Night), the weatherman asked about the wildfires that drove the family and several Rams' employees from their homes during the season.
"It was a surreal experience," Whitworth said. "I told people (the fires) were like a big bully. You just hope it doesn't come your way because if it does it's taking everything in its way. To see the fear most people had just shows you how devastating fires can be.
"My daughter to this day when she goes outside and smells smoke, she asks if there's a fire close. There are still things that are residuals that you just don't think about over time."
Whitworth found relief on the field, where he anchored a line that helped the Rams roll up an average of 33 points and 421 yards per game, second only to the Chiefs. He played on some high-powered offenses in Cincinnati (a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons by Cedric Benson, a team-record 33 TD passes by Andy Dalton) and the Rams are flexing that same kind of pick-your-poison offense.
"What we do is really take the opportunity to put pressure on the defense," Whitworth said. "The linebackers are in a formation where they're going to cover sideline-to-sideline, but the ball also might be coming dead at them. The secondary might be able to get involved in the run game, but at the same time they may also have to defend a really deep play-action pass. Everything looks very similar, but it's also completely different."
Whitworth starts smiling about the possibilities since the Rams haven't exactly fallen off in the postseason, where they've scored 28 points per on 418 yards. He can see himself joining his kids on the tube in a wild week.
"With us, they've got to defend the whole field," Whitworth said. "You go sideline to sideline, but at any moment you have to be ready to make a play on the deep ball. You can't say you're going to play one defense because we have the opportunity to hurt you in a multitude of ways. You have to execute it out and the defense has to guess what's coming this time."