Whitner takes on mentoring role 

click to enlarge Sharing experiences: Donte Whitner is taking it upon himself to tutor fellow safety Trent Robinson, noting the team is only as good as its “weakest link.” - GETTY IMAGES FILE PHOTO
  • getty images file photo
  • Sharing experiences: Donte Whitner is taking it upon himself to tutor fellow safety Trent Robinson, noting the team is only as good as its “weakest link.”

Six years removed from being among the highest-drafted safeties in his class, Donte Whitner has no qualms sitting next to a rookie.  

“Right now, I sit next to Trent Robinson in the meeting,” the 27-year-old said of his fellow 49ers safety.
But Whitner isn’t just sitting.

“Every day — whether I see him do something good, whether I see him do something bad — we take notes together and I critique him on the things that he [does],” Whitner said. “Because you’re only as good as your weakest link in the National Football League. At any given time, anybody can go down with an injury, and the guy that steps in is gonna have to able to play at a starter’s level.”

Currently, only Whitner and Dashon Goldson — a fine 1-2 combination in San Francisco’s last line of defense — can be considered starting level safeties. Behind them lies a slew of talented yet inexperienced players who will undoubtedly see action this month as preseason kicks off Aug. 10 against the Minnesota Vikings at Candlestick Park.

And with secondary coach Ed Donatell having to tutor close to 20 players during the current training camp, his veteran safeties, Whitner and Goldson, have been of help.

“He can’t coach everybody, so the guys with experience have to be coaches and help him when he’s coaching other guys,” Whitner said. “Only unselfish players — and we have a bunch of unselfish players in this locker room — are willing to coach guys that are younger than them. Guys that can potentially compete with you to take your job.”

It’s a job that Whitner thinks the sixth-round draft pick Robinson, 22, can do — with some training.

“He has the quickness, he has the speed,” Whitner said. “He has a toughness and the smart. So really it’s going to be up to him if he makes it or not, because he has all the tools.”

Smart and tough is how Whitner played last season, and it was his play that left the New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas in a catatonic heap. It’s that memorable playoff hit and Whitner’s recent criticism of the Saints’ defensive bounties that prompted New Orleans linebacker Scott Shanle to tweet that Whitner “needs to shut his mouth and mind his own business.”

Whitner has yet to respond, but said this before well before the twitter feud.

“Now we’re the hunted and not the hunters, and when people are hunting you, you have to be ready for everybody’s best shot, week in and week out, whether it’s preseason game No. 1, or the NFC Championship,” Whitner said. “Teams know who the 49ers are now, and they want to knock you off. We have to be ready for that.”

The NFC Championship Game may have been last winter, but preseason is coming. And so is Whitner.

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