One of those key difference-makers in three consecutive NFC Championship game appearances, eighth-year safety
Whitner, a Pro Bowl selection in each of the past two seasons, is optimistic about working out a long-term contract with San Francisco.
“Hopefully I am back next year,” the 28-year-old safety said on Monday.
Whitner has had conversations about his pending free agency with everyone from General Manager Trent Baalke, to head coach Jim Harbaugh, to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, to San Francisco’s secondary coach Ed Donatell.
All of the key figures told Whitner they’d like for him to return to the 49ers.
“Everybody expresses they want me back, but you know this is a business,” the 5-foot-10, 209-pound safety said. “Sometimes players don’t fit into what you want to do salary-cap wise. I’m not saying that’s the case here. Hopefully we can get something done and work something out. We’ll see.”
In his three years with San Francisco, Whitner has missed one game in the regular season. He also totaled 218 tackles (73 tackles per year), five interceptions, five forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and 27 pass breakups.
“He expressed he wants me back,” Whitner said of the team’s top personnel man. “That’s as far as that conversation went.”
Although his playing future is unknown, Whitner took a lot of pride in helping restore the competitiveness of San Francisco’s football team.
Sunday’s loss in the NFC title game doesn’t change his experience.
“There’s a lot of mixed emotions,” Whitner said after packing up his locker room. “We went through a lot this year. I enjoyed fighting with these guys."
Whitner brought a lot to the table as a physical enforcer on the defense. Though he was flagged at times for personal foul penalties, Whitner noted that he never spent a dime on fines from the league office.
“I’m playing hard-nosed football the right way,” Whitner said. “I know some refs are quick to throw the flag on me, but when you actually go look at the film and slow it down, you’ll see that none of the hits were illegal and I haven’t been fined $1 all year.”
Whitner would like to see the NFL implement video replay on roughness penalties.
He’d also like to see himself back in a red No. 31 uniform in San Francisco.
Great season faithful! We appreciate all of you! Hopefully I'm back next year so we can finish this thing! Much love #Hitner!!!!— DonteHitner (@DonteWhitner) January 20, 2014