KJ: I see your leadership. Other players rave to me about your leadership. When did you begin to develop your leadership style?
Donte Whitner: I think it started in San Francisco and understanding some of the things we were doing in Buffalo that caused losses – and more importantly some of the things we started doing in San Francisco that resulted in wins. After you put so much hard work in and after you care so much about the game, leadership just has to come naturally. And I was able to start showing that in San Fran.
KJ: As someone other players look to, what has your message been to the team this week before the Titans game?
Donte Whitner:My message to the team as a whole, and I stood up and told everyone this, is that we have all the talent on this team to make a push and do something special – we just have to believe it. It's the small things we are doing in football games that are taking us out of the games. We lost two games by a total of five points. There is no need to panic. But we know we should be 3-0. We know we have to put a number of wins in a row together and stop making the small mistakes. It's not big things. We have to do the small things better than other teams if we want to win. That was my message.
KJ: From the backend, what do you see that's giving the run defense problems early in the season?
Donte Whitner:It's a number of things. It's not just one or two guys. It's gap control sometimes. Sometimes we aren't setting the edge on the run.* *It's a small thing that turns into a big thing if someone isn't in their gap. We understand we CAN stop the run. There's been times out there on third-down and one and fourth-down where you would think we have the number one rushing defense in the league. We're playing well on those downs. If you can stop it on the short yardage, you can stop it on the long yardage.
*KJ: Does the defense feel the pressure to play like a top 10 unit and turn this thing around quickly? *
Donte Whitner:Yeah, we feel pressure. You have to feel pressure. We have to stay paranoid. We understand that if we played up to our capabilities as a defense, we'd probably be sitting at 3-0 right now. Pressure is on the defense to get it fixed, get turnovers, play physical and win football games.
KJ: Does safety Tashaun Gipson have the ability to be a special player in the NFL?
Donte Whitner:He's already a special player. People just don't know about him yet. He's getting his hands on the football, he's flying around, he's making the calls. This is everything me and him perceived when we got together. When I first got here I said the goal was to get him across the water – meaning getting him to the Pro Bowl. If continues to play like he's playing and stays healthy, he should be going.
*KJ: What are the similarities between Jim Harbaugh and Mike Pettine as head coaches? *
Donte Whitner:They are both standup men. They tell you how it is straightforward. They are football guys – football junkies. And winning is the only thing that matters with them. Being with coach Harbaugh for three years, he's always paranoid about what an opposing team could do. He's walking around asking guys questions. Coach Pettine is the same. Anything he can do to help us to make one more play in a football game, he's down to do it. He's a true players coach.
KJ: How impressed have you been with Brian Hoyer and is he grabbed the horns as the leader on offense?
Donte Whitner: I've really been impressed. He's leading that offense. He's not turning the football over. He's not putting the team in bad situations. That's why we have a win against New Orleans. And that's why we are looking forward to playing Tennessee.
KJ: Point blank: is this game against the Titans a must win for the Browns?
Donte Whitner: I wouldn't say it's a must win game this early in the season, but it's a win we really want to go and get. We desperately need it and we need to be 2-2 when we get back here Sunday night.