SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 19: Donte Whitner #31 of the San Francisco 49ers tackles Jerricho Cotchery #89 of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Candlestick Park on December 19, 2011 in San Francisco, California. The 49ers won the game 20-3. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
San Francisco 49ers strong safety Donte Whitner sat down with Chronicle Live to discuss this offseason as the team prepares for their 2012 campaign (video at end of the article). The long-time Buffalo Bill was solid for the Niners in his first year with the team, and has brought his vocal leadership qualities to the Bay Area.
For quite a while, Whitner was the guy for the Buffalo defense, similar to the presence and role Brian Dawkins once had with the Philadelphia Eagles. Whitner came to the 49ers via free agency where he joined a defense that already had players like Patrick Willis and Justin Smith in leadership roles.
But whether the 49ers needed it or not, Whitner has brought his strong veteran qualities to San Francisco and it's made an impact on what was formerly one of the league's worst secondary units. His ability on the field allows him to be heard when he does decide to speak, and he did so on CSN Bay Area.
"We expect to come out and compete for a Super Bowl title again this year," Whitner opened with.
In most of his time with the media, he's been genuinely confident in himself, the team and the potential for the organization. However, Whitner did acknowledge that the 49ers would be playing a different role in 2012.
"Well, you know, it's going to be different being a team with a target on our back this year. Last year, we were a team that nobody expected much from, and we kind of snuck up on a bunch of ball clubs," Whitner said. "But just know that we are going to be out there giving it all we have on the football field each and every day to get to the ultimate game, and that's the Super Bowl."
Whitner isn't the first of the 49ers to not only acknowledge, but outright mention the Super Bowl this offseason with the first game of the regular season not set to take place for over three months. Vernon Davis publically stated that his team, the San Francisco 49ers should be Super Bowl favorites this coming season. These are two classy veterans who only tell it like it is, so you have to wonder what they are seeing an a daily basis that they are urged to report such claims to the media and fans.
Even though they play opposite sides of the football, the two vets see a great deal of one another, as well as the progress of each other's units. Whitner had some words to share about the 49ers offense, which is expected to be vastly improved from last year's squad with several key additions and another year in the system.
On the 49ers offense:
"I think they're explosive. Especially when you have a guy like Randy Moss and you bring in Mario Manningham, who made some big plays - against us last year he made some big plays. In the Super Bowl he made big plays. You know he's a big-play wide receiver, they've been getting the ball to him, they've been getting it to Moss and Crabtree, you know, just all these guys...Vernon Davis."
Whitner continued, "You have three or four running backs in the backfield, Alex is coming into his own...so you know they have another year in the system, OTA's, getting the small intricate details down on offense, I think they'll be very explosive."
After viewing the offense day-in and day-out, and with all things considered, Whitner has put two and two together.
"I think if you combine a very explosive offense with a defense that we have, I think we can be a very dominant football team," said the safety.
It's a pretty logical conclusion that Whitner has come to, especially when you consider how close they were last year. Like every other starter on the team, Whitner has bought into what Jim Harbaugh is selling. He understands that the pieces are in place for the team to make a legitimate run at a title in 2012.
San Francisco currently has the personnel to win a 6th Lombardi Trophy; it's a Super Bowl-caliber team but whether or not they can make it happen for themselves is another story that's yet to be told. The 49ers certainly have a Super-Bowl-or-bust state of mind right now, because to them, anything less is seemingly a letdown.
It's seems the 49ers are on the right track and hungry for a heavier dose of success.
Follow me on Twitter: @DeSimone80