Whitner explains what it takes for a first-round pick to succeed

SANTA CLARA – Donte Whitner spoke in the media tent Monday afternoon. Here’s what he said.

Q: Does it put a strain on you when you’re working with a new free safety?

WHITNER: It’s not really a strain, but I have to do most of the vocal stuff back there. When Dashon was here, he had his side of the football field and I had my side of the football field. When you have guys who are new to just being out there with the Ones – it’s a different feel from being out there with the Twos or the Threes. That’s my job to make the other guy feel comfortable, because no matter who it is, one of four guys, it’s going to be somebody who’s fairly inexperienced.

Q: You’re doing all of the communication back there?

WHITNER: Pretty much all of the communication – make sure that they know the call, make sure their side of the field is set up, make sure my side of the field is set up. That’s how we have to play right now until we get a lot of experience at that position.

Q: Can you see the potential with Eric Reid, and how close do you think he is to sinking his teeth into that job?

WHITNER: The potential is always there, but potential can get you beat also by getting rushed out there and playing some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. If you’re not ready experience-wise, you might know what to do, but it might not be the way it’s drawn up in the book when you get out there on the football field, especially playing the top quarterbacks in the NFL. But the potential is always there.

He’s a guy who asks a lot questions, he’s very coachable, very humble, down to earth guy and you can tell he just wants to work. If he makes a mistake, he’s not a repeat offender. Whenever you have the willingness to come out and work and you’re very coachable, that those are all ingredients for a good player. It’s just going to take experience. He’s going to have to take some lumps. He’s going to have to give up some passes so he can understand where he’s supposed to be. Hopefully, he comes along really, really fast. He’s with the Ones right now, not making a lot of mistakes, making plays on the football. I just want to see him in live action.

Q: What was your experience like as a rookie, and who were the veterans that showed the way for you?

WHITNER: I was thrown into the fire Game 1. Being a top-10 pick, I had to start Game 1, Day 1 against Tom Brady. I understand what Eric is going through. He’s trying to go out there Game 1, Day 1 against Aaron Rodgers.

The guys who I took advice from was Troy Vincent, he was with the Buffalo Bills when I first came in. He was a 15-year vet. Nate Clements was there, I think it was his eighth or ninth year. Takeo Spikes was there and London Fletcher. All these four guys I learned how to be a pro, learned how to come to work each and every day and not change things. So, I think Eric will be OK. He sits next to me on my right and Trenton Robinson sits on my left.

Q: What was that experience like Week 1 against Tom Brady?

WHITNER: It was pretty good. I actually picked him off and was running it back to win the game and Nate clipped somebody. So, it was pretty good. We actually lost the game by two or three points. That would have sealed it, but we had a clip call, brought it back, missed the field goal and lost the game.

Q: Would it be good for Eric to face Peyton Manning on Thursday?

WHITNER: It will great for him to get experience in all four games, because you can go out there and make mistakes in these games and get your first NFL game action and not cost us anything. The only thing it might cost you is a little confidence if you get beat, but it won’t cost you in the win column. This is where he gets his experience. He can come out here every day on the practice field, you get comfortable going against Kap. You get comfortable going against B.J. and the backup quarterbacks. When you get out there in the live action, everything tends to move a bit faster. It’s harder to grasp things and revert back to the playbook because there’s no one out there to ask questions to.

Q: In general, do you notice a difference in hunger during training camp between a first round pick and a late round pick or an undrafted free agent?

WHITNER: You tend to notice that because a first round pick, he has a security. He knows no matter what he does, he’s probably going to be on the football team. Second round pick also. A guy that’s a fifth, sixth, seventh round pick, undrafted free agent, he knows he can’t make many mistakes. He knows he’s not guaranteed anything. Naturally, there will be a difference, but a guy like Eric and guys who are first round picks and come in and fight as if they’re free agents or sixth or seventh round picks, those are the guys that go on to be successful. That’s the difference between the two.

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