Thursday, September 28, 2006

Whitner Named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month

by Chris Brown, Lead Journalist

Last Updated: 9/28/2006 3:40 PM ET

It's probably safe to say that Mel Kiper and the other NFL draft gurus aren't second guessing the Buffalo Bills selection of Donte Whitner with the eighth overall pick last spring anymore.

Whitner was named the NFL Rookie of the Month for his play in September.

"It's a great honor to get," said Whitner. "But I'd rather be 3-0 right now. I'm going to go out there and give it my all next month also and the rest of the season and see what happens."

If there's one satisfying aspect about the award, he believes it answers all the criticism Buffalo received for taking Whitner with their top pick last April.

"(The Bills) picked me and I'm glad they picked me," Whitner said. "But I still want to go out there and prove people wrong and prove the Bills right."

The Ohio State product got off to a good start in Week One as he recorded an interception in his first NFL game at New England off of Tom Brady. Unfortunately his return for a touchdown was called back on penalty. The scoring play would've given Buffalo the lead and likely the win in Week One. He also had eight tackles in the tightly fought contest.

"I've felt good out there," said Whitner. "It's really no different from college to the NFL. Everybody makes a big deal about being a rookie. But if you're poised and you know what you're doing out there, being a rookie really means nothing."

"Donte is a smart football player," said defensive captain London Fletcher. "For the most part he's doing an excellent job and the coaches are doing an excellent job of getting him prepared."

In Week Two Whitner made his first NFL start at Miami and was part of a dominant defensive effort as he contributed seven tackles and broke up a Miami two-point conversion attempt in the end zone. The Bills defense held Miami scoreless until less than two minutes remained in the game.

Whitner posted his second straight start last week and was credited with three tackles in the effort. He stands seventh on the team in tackles and is tied for the team lead for interceptions.

"He's talented," said head coach Dick Jauron. "He's fast. He likes to play the game and he'll hit you. Those are all things that translate well to our sport. He's got good size. He's learning how to play, but one of the reasons we did like him is because he likes football. He likes to talk about football, look at it, study it and he likes to play. He's just learning and he's going to get better every week. I believe that."

The Bills have had just two NFL Rookies of the Month prior to Whitner's honor this week. Linebacker Gabe Northern won the award back in November of the 1996 season, and Sam Cowart won it in October of 1998.

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