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Whitner Enjoys Solid Debut

Posted Aug 6, 2011



Donte Whitner hit the 49ers practice fields for the first time Saturday, wearing No. 31 for the first time as well.

The hard-hitting safety, who totaled 140 tackles last season in Buffalo, signed a three-year deal with the 49ers earlier in the day. Shortly after, Whitner could be seen demonstrating many of the skills that made him a sought after defensive back in free agency.

Whitner enjoyed a strong debut in his 49ers uniform. He rotated in with the first-team defense at different stages of practice and also came up with a forced fumble during a seven-on-seven period.

“I feel like I fit in with the guys,” Whitner said after the three-hour practice. “I wanted to get my feet wet as a 49er and I think I did that today.”

The presence of the 5-foot-10, 208-pound safety did not go unnoticed by head coach Jim Harbaugh either.

“He looked exceptionally quick today and seemed like he had a real nose for the football,” Harbaugh said of the safety, who spent his past five seasons with the Bills. “He stood out in today’s practice and had quite a few plays to my eye. He’ll be in there competing with Reggie (Smith) and the rest of our guys at the safety position, so I’m excited to watch that competition go down.”

Add the safety position to many camp battles currently taking place like the ones at cornerback, inside linebacker and center to name a few.

“Things have picked up a bit,” said Smith, who along with Whitner could potentially become the 49ers starting safety duo. “We were getting used to the defense at first, now we’re competing with different live sessions here or there. It’s definitely turned up a bit.”

For the past two days, Harbaugh has instituted live tackling drills at various parts of practice.

The only catch is that players aren’t aware when those periods are going to take place.

“It’s in different situations, so you never know,” Smith said. “Out of the blue, Coach will be like, ‘This period is live.’ So we just go off that.”

Like Smith, Whitner has only been exposed to Harbaugh for a brief period of time, but has come away instantly impressed with his new coach. Whitner likened Harbaugh’s leadership qualities to other successful NFL coaches like Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Rex Ryan of the New York Jets.

“All the good coaches set the tone for their football teams,” Whitner said. “The good football teams do that.”
Coaching and young talent were some of the reasons that brought Whitner to the West Coast. A change in scenery also helped his decision.

“I don't really want to play in the snow anymore,” Whitner joked before his first practice. “It's beautiful weather here and I'm looking forward to being a San Francisco 49er.”

And after his first three hours on the field with new teammates, Whitner was convinced he made the right choice.

“I felt like one of the guys out there,” he said. “I feel like I made the best choice.”

Whitner will have to wait to rejoin his teammates for another training camp practice; the players have a mandatory day off on Sunday.

Notes and Quotes

We touched on linebacker Aldon Smith’s progress recently, but Harbaugh added his own stamp of approval. Said Harbaugh on his first-round selection’s progress to date: “Aldon’s done a really nice job and like (tackle) Joe Staley pointed out, very gifted and very strong playing on his feet for the first time, and he’s just getting better at it every day. Aldon is going to be just fine; we’re really pleased with how he’s progressing.”

Harbaugh also had another important quote on a rookie, undrafted quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who was originally slotted to play running back, but has impressed coaches as a passer. “He’s getting all his reps as a quarterback now,” Harbaugh announced. “He’s done a really nice job and I’m excited to watch him in the games, in the preseason games, and he’s fighting like a lot of guys to make the ball club.” Masoli aired a nice 60-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to undrafted rookie wideout Tyler Beiler.

Cornerback Tramaine Brock came up with his second interception in as many days when he ripped the football out of wide receiver Braylon Edward’s hands during seven-on-seven work. Brock anticipated Alex Smith’s throw and put himself into position to make a play on the football before Edwards. Linebacker Alex Joseph (pictured right) recorded an interception during a team period when he undercut Colin Kaepernick’s pass intended for Vernon Davis. However, Kaepernick finished the day strong with a touchdown pass to undrafted tight end Konrad Reuland in a drive down the field scenario.

Smith ended his similar drive series with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn which easily earned play of the day honors. Smith’s pass was perfectly thrown to Ginn, who got past the coverage of undrafted cornerback Phillip Davis.

Photo of the Day



Vernon Davis caught another touchdown pass on a play-action fake from Smith. But before Davis could get back to the huddle, his momentum took him into the bleachers, so he decided to celebrate with the 49ers Faithful who attended the second open practice.