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Defending Donte Whitner

Michael McMastersCorrespondent IMay 9, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 14:  Thomas Jones #20 of the New York Jets runs into Chris Kelsay #90 and Donte Whitner #20 of the Buffalo Bills during their game on December 14, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

While Ngata is definitely shaping up to be a solid DT with 149 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions, those numbers aren’t exactly gaudy comparing him to other DT’s that were selected high in the draft.

For instance Sedrick Ellis last year as a rookie for the Saints put up a whopping 30 tackles and four sacks compared to Ngata’s 31 tackles, one sack, and one pick his rookie campaign.

Our very own John McCargo in 2007 when fully healthy got 29 tackles with 2.5 sacks. He wasn’t even a starter either. We all know he has struggled, but this isn’t about him.

In 2006 all Donte Whitner was asked to do was play safety. And play safety he did. Finishing with a whopping 104 tackles, one pick, and four passes defensed. In 2007 we saw his numbers go down a bit as he was used more in different aspects of the game.

He still finished the season with 89 tackles one pick, and only one pass defensed. With an injury ravaged defense and guys swapping in and out of line-up at FS, Whitner had to line up at FS at times and others he was a nickel corner. He even played the second cornerback on a few snaps.

The same thing happened in 2008. While his numbers went even further down, I credit that to the fact Posluszny was healthy and making all the tackles in the middle of the field. Whitner still managed to put up 61 tackles, have one pass defensed and get a one sack.

Not bad for the guy who was selected behind Michael Huff. Just to put things in perspective Huff has played about as good as Ko Simpson. Now that would have been a major reach.

On the field Donte Whitner is a hard hitting safety who always seems to be around the ball. He is a vocal leader and very passionate player. He is always willing to help younger players refine their game.

Last year he had Leodis McKelvin stay at his house and work with him to learn the play book and understand the fundamentals of the Bills defense. He was voted a team captain for the first time in his career this past year. It is no small feat to garner the respect of your teammates after only playing in the league for two years.

Off the field for the most part Donte Whitner has been nothing but a model citizen. He has held annual charity bowling events for cancer research.

He has also participated in turkey giveaways in Cleveland, Ohio and contributed to Play 60 an NFL sponsored program that helps kids stay active. This is a guy that many kids look up to in the community and he is a fine example of what a role model should be.

Sadly on April 11, 2009 in the wee hours of that Saturday morning a riot broke outside the House of Blues, a nightclub located in Cleveland, Ohio. Whitner was there attending a birthday bash for longtime friend Ted Ginn Jr.

Apparently Whitner’s cousin was also attending the bash and was involved in the ensuing riot outside. Whitner rushed to the door and tried to break free of police custody. The police had warned him to stay inside. Whitner responded by saying, “My cousin is out there, and they’ve got guns.”

Whitner was subsequently tasered and handcuffed outside the nightclub. While it is certainly heroic to want to help your cousin, Whitner later apologized for his behavior stating that "It's not how I wish to conduct myself, and I apologize to all those involved."

This shows me that he has owned up to his mistake and has learned from his poor decision.

Heading into the 2009 season Donte Whitner has a major chip on his shoulder. Bills fans constantly think in the back of their minds, "what if we got Ngata?", "would this team be better?"

My answer to this question is "we’ll never know." Embrace the player and team leader you do have and watch out because Whitner just might deliver the playoff goods this upcoming season.

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