Whitworth, Woods arrive to lead Rams’ rebuilding effort
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — After 11 years with the Cincinnati Bengals, Louisiana native Andrew Whitworth is venturing into the unknown by signing way out on the West Coast with the Los Angeles Rams.
Robert Woods is just coming home.
Whitworth and Woods both agreed to join the Rams as free agents on Thursday, and they formally arrived in Southern California on Friday. The bulky left tackle and the smooth receiver fill Los Angeles’ two biggest needs as the two main components of the Rams’ offseason refurbishment of the NFL’s worst offense.
But their paths to the Rams are quite different.
Woods was born and raised around LA, and he spent three years as a star at USC before joining the Buffalo Bills in 2013. Sure, he was a Raiders fan as a kid, just like almost everybody in his native Carson, but his family has already switched allegiances.
“I’ve always wanted to come home and play for the hometown team,” Woods said with a broad grin. “The Rams made the trip home, and so did I.”
Woods acknowledged the Rams’ location played a role in his decision, but he was more intrigued by their financial offer and the chance to play with Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft.
″(We) can definitely build a legacy here in LA with Goff,” said Woods, who caught at least 40 passes for at least 550 yards in each of his four seasons with the Bills. “This team is just so young and so explosive. So much talent. It was definitely the best decision just to come home and play for the Rams.”
Whitworth left the Bengals with much more mixed emotions. He made three Pro Bowls and appeared in six playoff games while establishing himself as an elite lineman in Cincinnati, but realized he would probably have to leave.
“To get the opportunity to go out West and do something I’ve never done, I’ve never been out this way,” Whitworth said. “I haven’t played out this way. That was intriguing to me.”
While the Rams doggedly pursued him with a flattering contract to outpace several suitors, the veteran lineman acknowledged a “bittersweet” feeling about parting with Cincinnati.
“It was the end of a long time invested in a place, and the excitement of a new adventure,” Whitworth said. “People that know me know I love challenges. I love adventures. I love to do new things. When I realized that it probably wasn’t going to get done in Cincy, I wanted to find somewhere that I felt like I could go and make a difference, and make an impact.
“This just seemed like one of those opportunities to go and make a difference, and try to be a part of a locker room (where) I could be a leader and be someone that can help a team turn in a direction that they want to go.”
The Rams are getting an entirely fresh start after their homecoming season ended with 11 losses in their final 12 games and an offseason coaching change.
Sean McVay took over, but the respected young offensive mind needs better players to fix the NFL’s worst offense in 2015 and 2016 — and Whitworth and Woods were among two of the best free agents at their positions.
The Los Angeles weather and the Coliseum’s forgiving grass field also were major positives for the 35-year-old Whitworth as he attempts to preserve his health. Whitworth became the Rams’ oldest player by several years when he signed with the club — and he’s even four years older than McVay, the youngest head coach in modern NFL history.
Whitworth will replace the much-criticized Greg Robinson as the Rams’ starting left tackle, McVay said. Robinson, the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft, will play on the right side of the Rams’ line to start out next season, either at tackle or guard depending on where Rob Havenstein ends up.
Whitworth’s wife and three children joined him at the Rams’ training complex, and he realizes he’s got plenty of work ahead in relocating his family while the Rams approach offseason workouts next month.
“Right now it’s different, just because I’ve been in the same building for 11 years,” Whitworth said. “We’re excited. We’re nervous. We don’t know what to expect. But as we say, as long as we have our fam, we’ll go anywhere.”