One of the more popular players with the 49ers media is safety Donte Whitner. While he doesn't give away a ton of information, he is usually quite accommodating, open to questions and generally a good quote.
Whitner was one of the two players made available to the media yesterday, and he gave some interesting insight into a variety of topics. He discussed rookie safety Eric Reid's development, and the importance of the preseason for him. He addressed issues of communication as it relates to having a rookie free safety and losing Chris Culliver. He also gave some insight into the first game of his career, which matched him up against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. You can check out the audio at 49ers.com, and Eric Branch has a transcript.
On Eric Reid
Whitner likes what he sees in Reid, describing him as a guy who is very coach-able, down to earth, and asks a lot of questions. The most important point, in my opinion, was that when Reid makes a mistake, he is a not a "repeat offender." Mistakes are an important part of the learning process, but only when you actually learn from them and don't make them again (or at least not frequently).
Speaking of mistakes, Whitner pointed to the value of the preseason slate for Reid to make his mistakes and learn. He mentioned how it is easy for players to grow comfortable in training camp going against the same guys day in and day out. He said action moves a little bit faster, and you can't just turn to your coach on the field and get clarification on a concept.
On communication in the secondary
Whitner brought up an issue that will be rather fascinating to track in the preseason and early in the regular season. The 49ers will be dealing with a new free safety and a new third cornerback when they take the field this season. Dashon Goldson is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Chris Culliver is out with a torn ACL. Right now, Eric Reid or C.J. Spillman would appear to be front-runners at free safety, while Tramaine Brock or Nnamdi Asomugha could end up as the third cornerback.
According to Whitner, he is handling all the "vocal stuff" in the defensive backfield. Previously, Goldson had his side of the field and Whitner had his side. Reid (or Spillman) will have to learn to handle some of that responsibility, but for now it's on Whitner. Over the next month, as you are watching preseason action, try and keep an eye on how the secondary is adjusting before the snap, and how the communication is working out. Whitner is a smart guy, and Reid seems to be growing at an exponential rate, but it will still be something to track moving forward.
On his first career game
The transcript is worth the price of admission just for Whitner's story about his first career NFL game. He faced Tom Brady and the Patriots, and actually managed an interception. Enter Nate Clements:
I actually picked him off and was running it back to win the game and Nate (Clements) clipped somebody. So it was pretty good. We actually lost the game, I think by about two or three points (Patriots won 19-17 on Sept. 10, 2006). That would have sealed it, but we had a clip called that brought it back, we missed a field goal and lost the game.