Thursday, September 11, 2008

Whitner a respected leader and team spokesman

High expectations are in vogue, but pieces must fall into place

By Jerry Sullivan

September 4, 2008

Three months later, Donte Whitner hasn’t softened his position one bit. You’ve seen him play football. Does he strike you as the sort of guy who would guarantee the playoffs and back down later? If anything, the Bills’ strong safety is more certain now.

“Expectations are out the roof,” Whitner said Monday. “Expectations are right out the roof. And that’s how you want it. You want to have expectations. If you go into the season and don’t have expectations, you’re going to get your butt kicked. I’ll tell you that right now.”

Whitner is only 23, but he enters his third NFL season as a respected leader and team spokesman. If he says this team should make the playoffs, you can be sure his teammates are right there with them, tired of all the waiting and the rebuilding and the excuses and ready to make a serious impact in the league.

And yes, that’s the way you want it. You want a team to expect big things of itself. You don’t hope for success. You expect it. The Bills feel they have earned the right to have high expectations. They’ve put in the work. They’ve been through the tough times. They believe they’re ready.

“I’ve heard that you judge a man’s worth by the amount of adversity he’s overcome,” Whitner said. “It’s the same with a team. Last year, we faced more adversity than any team in the NFL. We’ve been through it, but we’re still here. And we’re going to be a good football team.”

Evidently, he’s not alone. The Bills have sold more than 54,200 season tickets, the most since 1991. The Toronto venture has something to do with it. But fans believe this team is ready to compete for its first postseason berth since the 1999 season.

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