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Cincinnati Bengals legend doesn’t shoot down rumors of a late-season return

The Super Bowl-contending Cincinnati Bengals lost star right tackle La’el Collins for the season due to a torn ACL and MCL he suffered Week 16 against the New England Patriots.

Collins, 29, has been a consistent force for the defending AFC champs after coming over from the Dallas Cowboys this past offseason. His injury is going to hurt a quarterback in Joe Burrow who has been sacked a whopping 90 times in 31 games since the start of the 2021 season.

Could this lead to franchise legend and current Amazon Prime analyst Andrew Whitworth turning in the microphone for another shot at glory? He didn’t completely shoot that down in a recent appearance on The Season with Peter Schrager podcast.

“I’ve said this since the day I retired, I’ll never say never. There’s always a chance,” Whitworth said about a potential return to the Bengals.

A second-round pick of Cincinnati out of LSU back in 2006, Whitworth played with the Bengals for the first 11 seasons of his career. That span saw him start 164 of 168 games in which he appeared, primarily at left tackle.

He earned three Pro Bowl trips and two All-Pro honors in Cincy before moving on to the Los Angeles Rams ahead of the 2017 season. Whitworth, 41, played in his final NFL game against these Bengals as Los Angeles earned the Super Bowl title this past February. Wouldn’t a return to Ohio be pretty awesome?

Unfortunately, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor doesn’t seem to be too keen on this idea.

“We got good people in the building that we trust,” Taylor on a potential reunion with Whitworth. “I think our scouting department does a great job of always evaluating our options. 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 do this year.”

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As it stands right now, third-year player Hakeem Adeniji is slated to start at right tackle in Collins’ stead. He has all of 14 career starts to his name with a majority of them coming at right guard last season.

According to Pro Football Focus, Adeniji ranked dead last among qualified NFL right guards with a 43.0 grade in 2021.

At 11-4 on the season, Cincinnati is battling for both the AFC North title and the No. 1 seed in the AFC heading into the final two weeks of the season. It must contend with the conference-best Buffalo Bills (12-3) and division-rival Baltimore Ravens (10-5) over the final two games of the regular year.

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Burrow himself will need protection if Cincinnati is going to see its current seven-game winning streak continue at home Monday night against Buffalo. He’s been sacked a mere 10 times during this seven-game streak after going down 29 times over the course of the season’s first eight games. You can do the math from there.

As for Andrew Whitworth potentially returning to the the Cincinnati Bengals, he’s been open about unretiring since calling it quits last February. It just doesn’t seem to be in the cards right now.