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November 6, 2013
Donte Whitner: Rookie hazing not part of 49ers' culture


The 49ers don't haze their rookies.

This from safety Donte Whitner, who has emerged as the team's spokesman over the last year or so, when asked by Sirius XM's Alex Marvez yesterday about the Dolphins locker room saga involving offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.

"It came from coach (Jim) Harbaugh," Whitner said. "Said it from Day 1: 'We're not going to do it.' The players, we really don't care to do it. We care more so about incorporating a rookie into our system and helping us win football games. And everything else that really goes on we don't care for."

Whitner is right. Apart from carrying a veteran's helmet off the field after practice and perhaps fetching a bag of Chick-fil-a, there has been no sign of rookie hazing at 49ers headquarters even prior to Harbaugh taking over.

As one of the team leaders, Whitner has personally taken the team's most prominent rookie, fellow safety Eric Reid, under his wing beginning in the offseason in order to prepare Reid for a season as the starter at free safety.

Other rookie classes were treated the same way. Both Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick were taken in immediately by the group of players - led by defensive leaders Justin Smith and Ray McDonald - who were working out at San Jose State during the lockout.

Rookie hazing? Then-starting quarterback Alex Smith not only paid for one of the draft picks, receiver Ronald Johnson, to fly from Michigan to San Jose that summer so he could take part in player-run practices, he gave Johnson his wife's Mercedes so that he could get around town.

"We don't have those types of issues because I can honestly say this is one of the closest football teams, this is one of the closest groups of men I've ever been around," Whitner said. "We play and we have fun but we know not to cross certain boundaries. We know not to cross respect boundaries and sexuality boundaries and disrespect people as individuals."

Whitner also talks about Aldon Smith and about Reid's development. It's worth a listen.

-- 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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