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July 30, 2012
Whitner is coming: 49ers safety sees irony in his famous hit


Remember the hot-headed, profanity-laced, violence-infused pre-game speech then-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams gave before the team's divisional playoff game in San Francisco earlier this year? Audio here.

Safety Donte Whitner today painted an entirely different picture of what was going on in the 49ers' defensive meeting room at the same time.

"Believe it or not, he's very calm," Whitner said of 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. "The way he is during practice is the same way he is the night before the game. He's very calm, he informed us of everything we have to do to get the win, the players we had to take out of the game - not physically or literally - but to take them out of the game, not allow them to make plays. ...

"He's the same guy he is each and every game, and you can appreciate that," Whitner continued. "Because some coaches get into that moment the night before the game, the day of the game and you really don't know who they are. They change into another person. Because they're as nervous or even more nervous than the players are. But you don't really see that with Vic."

Williams, of course, has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL for his role in the Saints' bounty scandal. The 49ers travel to New Orleans Nov. 25 to begin a tough, five week stretch that includes road trips to New Orleans, St. Louis, New England and Seattle.

Whitner acknowledged it was "ironic" that it was he -- not a Saints defender -- who delivered the most memorable and critical hit in the game, a legal shot on running back Pierre Thomas as the Saints drove deep into 49ers territory on the opening drive that dislodged the football and knocked Thomas out of the game with a concussion.

"I'm not happy that he was injured on the play," Whitner said. "But I am happy that is delivered a big blow and got the football for our team because who knows what would have happened (had the Saints scored). Confidence would have been shaken if you let Drew Brees and the prolific offense they have go down and score on the first drive."

Whitner said that hardly a day passes that he's not asked about that hit. In fact, Whitner said he had to stop taking classes this offseason at San Jose State because people kept approaching him to talk about the play and he started to become a spectacle.

So he took the classes on-line and is still working toward his degree.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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