Friday, August 21, 2009

Whitner a "mentor, big brother" to teammates

Secondary Education

Chris Brown, Lead Journalist

August 21, 2009

From the time Reggie Corner first set foot in the defensive backs meeting room, he’s sat in the front row. He never wanted to miss a word from position coach George Catavolos or defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

He also wanted to make sure he sat next to one of the more astute teammates in class. One who knows secondary play and would be willing to share tips about how to line up and play against certain opponents. Donte Whitner was that choice.

During his rookie season Corner would pepper Whitner with questions and the safety would willingly provide answers.

“You don’t really want to force things on guys if they don’t want it,” said Whitner. “Reggie from day one has asked me questions and he always sits next to me in the meeting rooms.

“He asks me questions about certain techniques and certain coverages. How he should play it. If he doesn’t see something or understand something he’ll ask me. He’s really been there the entire time.”

When Whitner would invite his teammates over to his home on Thursdays during the season last year to study film, again Corner sat in front. Both being Ohio natives, Corner and Whitner already had a common bond. Growing up an hour away from one another the two defensive backs had a lot of similar football experiences.

By season’s end last year Corner had shown solid improvement with his four pass break up day in a win over the Broncos the highlight performance of his season. It also relieved Whitner from having to play multiple roles on defense at the nickel corner and safety.

As Corner entered his first NFL offseason he asked Whitner if they could meet up and get some training in together when they were both back home in Ohio. Whitner obliged.

“This whole offseason me and Donte had an opportunity to work together,” said Corner. “I’m from Canton and he’s from Cleveland so we got a chance to link up and work together a bit. I get the best of both worlds as far as working with Donte.”

“He always made it a priority to come up to Cleveland and get with me for workouts and ask me questions about eating habits,” Whitner said. “So that’s a guy that really wants to learn and wants to be a good player in the National Football League. He’s taking steps toward doing that.”

Whitner works with well-known Ohio trainer Tim Roberts, who also trains former Bills London Fletcher and Nate Clements as well as Giants receiver Mario Manningham.

“Not only were we lifting weights, but I was telling him why we’re doing the certain things that we’re doing,” said Whitner. “And we were also talking football at the same time. Last year he was getting a little worn down at the end of the season. To sustain what you have throughout a 17 week grind you have to take days off to yourself. It’s a balance of a lot of different things.”

“We worked on footwork, explosion work,” said Corner. “We also did a lot of mental study. We’d have some talks about concepts and we’d watch a lot of film too. We did everything. You get everything when you work with him. He’s like a big brother, definitely a mentor.”

And Whitner quickly recognized the improvement in Corner’s play this past spring and now in training camp.

“He’s really picked up his game,” said Whitner. “He’s playing a lot faster and that’s why he’s able to make the plays he makes.”

Corner’s 26-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Hall of Fame game being his biggest play in the preseason so far.

“I feel the knowledge of the game came a lot quicker to me this offseason,” said Corner. “In the film room now coach is coaching me and I sit right by (Whitner) and he’s also coaching me. So I definitely feel an improvement with him working with me.”

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