SANTA CLARA – Donte Whitner spoke for a long time at his locker this afternoon.
Here are a lot of quotes from that group interview.
Q: All the come from behind wins and the wins on the road – can you look to those for some guidance in place of the playoff experience this roster lacks?
WHITNER: Yeah, it’s really handling adversity, understanding that you’re going to be put in some adverse situations throughout the football season, you’re going to have some games you’re going to have to play on short notice and three, four days of practice and rest and travel across the country, and some games you’re in Seattle or Detroit where the fans are really loud and it’s really a playoff atmosphere. Everything we’ve been doing all year and all the teams we’ve been playing has really been preparing us for what we’re going to see the second round of the playoff, so we feel like we’re prepared.
Q: What does the defense need to do better for January 14th, in your mind? What’s the biggest thing you need to improve?
WHITNER: We need to improve our attitude on the football field each and every snap. Sometimes we’re dominant – a lot of times we’re dominant, but then sometimes we have lapses where we give up plays. It’s nothing mental – it’s all physical, and we have the guys in this room, we have the guys in our locker room to get the job done and to compete for a Super Bowl. That’s the goal right now, to win a Super Bowl, and we all know it, and anything short of that will be a disappointment.
Q: Will you be watching or scouting all the playoff games this weekend?
WHITNER: Yeah, you watch with a scouting eye. You know who the favorites are to win the football game – everybody expects New Orleans to win. But we understand that Detroit has a really good football team. They have a guy over there in Megatron who can win football games by himself. So with x’s and o’s, the players know what New Orleans is facing, New Orleans knows what they’re facing, and we’re just going to watch and hopefully we’ll get the best team. If I had to take a guess I would think it would be New Orleans, but you never know, you never know. But that dome really gives them a home field advantage. Other than that, I’ll be watching and we’ll be ready to come here Monday ready to prepare for it.
Q: Is it hard to scout it on TV because you can’t see all the players on the field?
WHITNER: Yeah, it’s hard to scout it on that. You can only scout once you come in and see the coaches’ copy and the players’ copy. You can’t really scout, you have to be a fan and just watch.
Q: Will you get together with teammates to watch that New Orleans game?
WHITNER: Yeah, I’m sure a few of us will get together, but guys like to do their own things sometimes, especially when you have downtime. A lot of guys might want to go home and see some family, so I don’t know. I know I’ll have some friends over – my younger brother is around here, so we’ll watch together.
Q: A lot of players on this defense have played almost all the snaps this season. Is that why you guys have given up some big plays the last few weeks?
WHITNER: No. It was a couple guys out of their gap, everybody not hustling to the football on some plays. We watched it, we talked about it and corrected it. It has nothing to do with that. Our training staff really does a great job. Our training staff and our weight room guys really do a great job working with guys one-on-one, understanding each guy’s body. All workouts aren’t the same. The things that have happened on the football field have nothing to do with injury. We expect guys to step in and play well.
Q: In past years did you watch the playoffs on TV too?
WHITNER: Yeah, and you tend to be a little jealous of the guys that are playing in the playoffs. All the attention of the sports world is on your games, especially when you get into the second, third round and the games get more and more important. Guys that want to get into the playoffs and are tired of sitting around four or five years in a row not making the playoffs. Now we have an opportunity to be one of 12 teams. Next week going into our game we’ll be one of eight teams, and hopefully after than game we’ll be one of four. We’re going to enjoy this.
Q: What was the last bowl game you played in?
WHITNER: The Fiesta Bowl down in Tempe, AZ against Notre Dame.
Q: Alex Smith said that at the Fiesta Bowl you got a portable DVD player. Did you get anything for making the playoffs this year?
WHITNER: Coach gave us a choice – you could either pick a painted football that says, “13-3, we made the playoffs,” or you could pick a little travel shaving kit, or another little duffle bag. It was not as extravagant as making it to the Fiesta Bowl, it will do.
Q: What did you pick?
WHITNER: I picked the football. I know my mom will probably want it. Somebody will probably want it.
Q: What did you get at the Fiesta Bowl?
WHITNER: Hand held Playstation 3s. It was pretty extravagant when you go to one of those big bowls. You never know what’s going to be in those goody bags when you get to your rooms at the Fiesta Bowl.
WHITNER: Tostitos. Bad of goodies. Extravagant hotel room – we stayed the Princess Resort down in Tempe. It was pretty good.
Q: Let’s talk about Harbaugh for a minute – what’s his deal?
WHITNER: I can honestly say that Coach Harbaugh is one of the most interesting coaches I’ve ever played for. You never know what you’re going to get from him. You never know what he’s going to say out of his mouth – some things we can share, some things we can’t. But he’s always going to shoot it straight to you, and he’s always going to make sure that the players are ready to play. Everything in this organization revolves around the players, and everybody else after that, so that’s how you know you have a good football coach – when he revolves everything around the players.
Q: Does he ever surprise you?
WHITNER: Yeah, he said a couple things today that surprised a lot of guys. Some guys liked it. Some guys didn’t. I can’t really share it, but that’s the type of stuff you need in the National Football League. When you have guys who have been around as head coaches for so long, they tend to disappear a little bit. They tend to not be involved with the players as much. They tend to not sit down in the lunch room and talk to players and understand what’s going on in their personal lives, and not just on the football field. Coach Harbaugh does that. After wins or losses, on the way back on home on the plane he’ll skip seats and go sit with different guys and talk to them and just talk about whatever they want to talk about. There’s not too many head coaches who do that in college or the National Football League, and I think that’s why he’s won this locker room over the way he has.
Q: What will he say when he sits down next to you in the lunch room?
WHITNER: Yeah, he’ll sit down with you and say: “I haven’t talked with you in a while. What’s going on?” There’s not too many that do that. There’s not too many head coaches who actually speak to the players directly on a personal level. He does that and that’s why he’s good at what he does.
Q: Did you ever think that was kind of weird?
WHITNER: Yeah, I always thought it was weird. I always thought it was weird that a lot of head coaches don’t speak to you and talk to you and really want to get to know you personally. When I first got here I thought it was a little weird that he wanted to do that just because I was used to something different, but that’s why he’s won the locker room and the organization and everyone around here over.
Q: Do you feel that the players can talk to him honestly about what they do and don’t like going on about the team and he’s not going to hold it against them?
WHITNER: Yeah, and we have a little committee of eight players, and if we don’t like something – the way it’s going, a schedule or whatever we can go to him. He’s not going to change it every time, but he’ll consider it, and that’s why the guys like him. He said that we can do anything in the world and we can come and talk to him and he’ll forgive us except put our hands on women. If you put your hand on a woman then you’re done in his book. So other than putting your hands on women, you can do anything and come talk to him, and it’s true. Open-door policy. Everybody around here really likes him and we want to win for him and for ourselves.
Q: Is there something he’s changed at the request of the committee?
WHITNER: When we went to Cincinnati we had a lot of input on where we stayed and what we ate and how we wanted it to be down in Cincinnati. Even this week, going to the game. Do guys want to get on the bus and go the game altogether or do you want to have your families with you? He’ll take a show of hands and let guys really give input. There’s not too many coaches that do that. It’s really cut-and-dry – I’m the ambassador, you listen to us and this is how it goes. A lot of times it doesn’t work that way in the National Football League.
Q: Who’s in the committee?
WHITNER: Myself, Patrick, Justin, Vernon, Moran, Frank, Alex – and he really lets us give our input.
Q: Who selected the committee?
WHITNER: Our teammates selected the committee – teammates and coaches.