CINCINNATI -- The night before a backup was slated to relieve him in the Cincinnati Bengals' season opener, left tackle Andrew Whitworth picked up his telephone and tapped his fingers on its touch-screen facing.
"Hey, man, just do what you do and don't worry about anything else. What you do is good enough," Whitworth, a Bengals Pro Bowl selection, typed into a message box.
The message was destined for Anthony Collins, the Bengals' sixth-year reserve out of Kansas. Collins was making his first start in two seasons the next afternoon, playing in place of an injured Whitworth. He also just happened to be making that start by going against a defensive end in Chicago's Julius Peppers who is among the best at his position.
"He told me he got me," Whitworth said Wednesday, reflecting on Collins' text-message response, "and I said, 'Man, I ain't doubt you one bit.'"
Whitworth and the rest of the Bengals may need that confidence again this weekend if the veteran's knee still hasn't responded to treatment. Whitworth has been preparing as if he'll play when the Bengals meet the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium for "Monday Night Football." Though his head coach earlier this week expressed optimism that he might play this week, Whitworth remains in wait-and-see mode.
"I need to keep working," Whitworth said. "When the doctor clears me, I'll be allowed to go. No matter how much I argue with him, he's going to have my best interest at heart. As soon as they give me the green light, I'll be out there."
Whitworth told reporters Wednesday that he had a setback with the knee in training camp. Months after he underwent a surgical procedure to correct the original issue that developed last October, he aggravated the injury as he was trying to slowly get back to doing football-type drills and movements.
"It was a totally different episode that caused another injury," Whitworth said. "Just bad luck or a bad day."
Just before the aggravation, Whitworth said he "was healthy and then something happened."
That just means that in the event Whitworth won't be able to go again later this week, Collins will relieve him for the second straight game.
That's not necessarily a bad thing.
After all, Collins not only willingly took on the Peppers Test last weekend, he passed it with few hiccups along the way. Peppers has notched double-digit sack totals in each of the last two seasons. Against Collins, he didn't have a single sack.
"I can't sugarcoat it. I did my thing," Collins said after the game. "I prepared all week for this."
He prepared, just like Whitworth did and will continue to do.
"I have to prepare like I'm playing," Whitworth said. "I'll prepare like I'm playing in the game every single week until they tell me I can. Every week, I've participated in what I'm allowed to participate in. Mentally I got into it. I broke down the rushers, figured out how to block for them and all those kinds of things. I'll continue to do that."
As long as he continues to do that and Collins continues to have confidence in his own play, then quarterback Andy Dalton's blind side should have adequate protection for yet another week.