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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  1. Right on topic again, hehehe-
    Hey Crab15 (and other Beer-os).
    The Press Demo has an article on Beercations in Sonoma County Wine Country. That Dempsey’s joint has excellent food too.

      1. I don’t think so. Whitner actually picked Jenkins as the young receiver that was impressing him the most a few weeks ago on Twitter.

        I think he means exactly what he said and it’s hypothetical.

        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.

        We have heard less than flattering reports from the beat writers at times, but from what I’ve read the Coaches and players all seem to have his back and think he’ll be fine. Let’s hope they’re right.

    1. He could just as easily been describing himself. I think it was a generic comment, not a comparison between Reid and Jenkins.

  2. It’s hard not to respect Whitner the man. He struggles in pass defense, but there isn’t a more hard nosed and competitive guy out there.

    1. Exactly. I appreciate he had his struggles in pass coverage last season, but he’s a good guy to have in the locker room.

  3. I like Donte, total professional and class act. However this needs to be a big year for the strong safety. Contract year, the unequivocal leader of the secondary and co-captain of the defense, he needs to have a pro bowl year.
    Teams are going to pick on both safeties this year especially Reid, but moreso Donte in pass coverage against tall TE and speedy WR.
    We need a combined 10 INT’s from the safety position this year and this will put us in the the top 5 of all NFL defenses.

    1. @Prime Time, I don’t know of any team that had 10 INTS between their safeties, at least not between their starting safeties; so that may be asking a lot. That being said, I totally agree that we’re going to need a higher level of play from the safety position this year. I personally would rather see Aldon Smith, Corey Lemonier, and Tank Carradine go wild all year. That will lead to a much more disruptive defense that force opponents to turn it over.

      @Razoreater, you’re right lets take him at his word. Plus it’s a contract year for him (sort of). he needs to prove that he’s worth the salary or at an extension. He’s great in the locker room, if matched that on the field…

      1. It might be asking a lot but really does 5 picks each really a lot over a 16 game schedule?
        If you want to be a top 5 defense, turnovers will do it and do it quickly for you.

    1. “Aldon Smith, returning after missing a couple days with an undisclosed injury, had a particularly strong showing.”

      Game 1 against rookie David Bakhtiari should be fun

    1. “Lawrence, run into it with your face,” Tomsula said. “Get your nose bloody.”

      Bloody brilliant. Thanks for the link…

  4. Anyone getting excited about Thursday yet??!! I’ve been a little out of touch with the goings-on of the team and can’t wait to get caught up on things. Have a ton of reading to do!!

    (BTW, hope you all had great summers!!!)

    1. Welcome back 49erGirl! The two biggest stories in training camp so far have been the season-ending ACL injury for Chris Culliver and the fact that no one has stepped and seized the #2 WR position let alone the #3 WR position. There have also been other injuries but that is normal during training camp. However, due to the injuries mainly hitting the WR corps the Niners had to sign Austin Collie and Lavelle Hawkins both to a one-year deal. Patrick Willis also had an injury to his wrist that will take him out of action for 3-4 weeks.

  5. AJ had a strong practice today according to tweets from Barrows and others. Caught 7 of 9 passes thrown his way.

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