While Whitworth rehabs knee, Collins fills void

CINCINNATI – The Bengals open the regular season in less than two weeks at Chicago against the Bears and the question of whether or not left tackle Andrew Whitworth will be available to play is a legitimate one. If Whitworth or head coach Marvin Lewis have any real concerns over Whitworth’s knee rehabilitation process, they aren’t showing it.

Whitworth has practiced sparingly since the start of training camp and hasn’t played in any of the three preseason games, including last Saturday’s 24-18 loss at Dallas. He remained in Cincinnati, did his workouts and watched his teammates play on TV.
 
“It’s better for me to do it here and be able to do the rehab and be in an environment where I can do all the stuff I need to do rather than traveling and staying at a hotel,” said Whitworth Monday. “I’m not concerned about anything other than trying to get my knee better. That’s what I’m worried about, trying to get it to where I feel I can play effectively. That’s my only concern.”

While Whitworth rehabs, Anthony Collins goes about his business. That business is of little difference from the past five seasons. Collins has started 18 games over his career as a backup at both tackle spots. Collins has started in place of Whitworth this preseason and, if Whitworth isn’t healthy enough to play once the regular season begins, he’ll get the call against Chicago.

“I have a job to do,” said Collins. “Everybody has a job to do, and my job is: if they want to make me a backup, to be ready at all times at both positions. If they want to make me a starter, I am a starter, go out there and play like a starter. That’s my job. When my job changes, somebody will let me know but I still have the same mindset every day.”

The Bengals drafted Collins in the fourth round in 2008 out of Kansas. He’s played in 44 games since then but when it comes to starting he’s been the fill-in guy. Every team needs someone like Collins, a player who would start for some other teams but is reliable enough to insert into the starting lineup without the coaching staff having to rework the game plan for him.

That’s AC. When right tackle Andre Smith was away from the team during offseason workouts, Collins took a lot of the snaps there along with Dennis Roland, another six-year player.

“He’s been back and forth, right-left, left-right. Anthony has really earned the respect of his teammates as a player each and every day the way he carries himself around here all the time,” said Lewis. “He was a young guy when he was picked and comes in here and he didn’t get an opportunity to play a whole lot early on. He was just always that eighth or ninth lineman that would sometimes be suited up and sometimes not and that wore on him a little bit. These last couple of years he’s been great. Every time he goes out there and gets a chance to play he responds and does well.”

Saturday at Dallas, Collins had the job of blocking Cowboys’ defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who is a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and four times has been named first team All-Pro. Ware has 111 career sacks. Collins held his own against Ware when the two matched up for 20-plus plays.

“AC has always been a great player, though,” said Whitworth. “I’ve been an advocate of his for years, talking about what a good player he is. He’s a very good football player and has continued to play well, and that’s a good thing. It’s an advantage for us.”

The Bengals wrap up the preseason Thursday night against Indianapolis. Whitworth is not expected to see any action against the Colts. How much Collins plays remains to be seen but if the Bengals have any real internal concerns about Whitworth being ready to play at Chicago Collins won’t likely play a whole lot. The Bengals have to make sure Collins can go if Whitworth can’t.

That’s nothing new for Collins.

“You’ve got to stay mentally in the game,” said Collins. “You can’t take nothing for granted. Anything can happen at any time. We have to be ready at all time.”