NEW ORLEANS – Donte Whitner is one game away from comprehensive vindication.
The Buffalo Bills’ polarizing 2006 first-round draft pick was voted to his first Pro Bowl and will win a world championship Sunday if the San Francisco 49ers beat the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
Whitner claimed he’s the same player he was with Buffalo.
“I think sometimes players just get drafted into the wrong system and come into a bad situation,” Whitner said, “and there’s really nothing you can do about it except go out and work hard, let everybody talk and let the chips fall where they may.”
Whitner said Bills coach Dick Jauron’s Tampa 2-style defense limited his ability to make plays. Although playing with All-Pro linebackers Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith and safety DaShon Goldson is easier than with Keith Ellison, Chris Kelsay and Ko Simpson.
Whitner left Buffalo with five interceptions, 19 breakups, 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one recovery in 69 games. In 31 regular-season games for San Francisco he has three interceptions, 15 pass breakups, three forced fumbles and four recoveries.
“I wish I was drafted into a system like this,” Whitner said, “a 3-4 system, where you play quarters, you play Cover 2, you play Cover 3, you play fire zone, you allow the players to make the calls on the field and you don’t make it all about coaching.”
Buffalo native Corey Graham stopped short of a Joe Namath moment at Super Bowl XLVII media day.
Graham, the Turner-Carroll graduate and Baltimore Ravens cornerback, made a quasi-guarantee.
Graham was approached by Kevin Frazier, host of entertainment-news program “omg! Insider.” Frazier wanted Graham to come up with Twitter hash tags for certain topics.
“I don’t even tweet!” Graham said. “How are you going to ask me to answer?”
With some cajoling, Graham went ahead with the word-association exercise.
Beyonce Knowles: “Fantastic.”
Destiny’s Child reunion: “Amazing.”
Winning the Super Bowl: “Epic.”
Your coach beating his brother: “A must.”
The one thing you won’t do when you’re in New Orleans: (long pause) “Lose!”
“I didn’t know if I should say it or not,” Graham said with a laugh. “I thought it, but it’s one of those situations where you’re like, ‘Aaaahhhhhhh … I guess so.’ ”
“Nobody here is really qualified to ask those questions. I just truly feel that this is God’s time, and whatever His time is, you know, let it be His will, don’t try to please everybody with your words, try to make everybody’s story sound right.”
Twelve years after his first appearance in the Super Bowl was marred by questions about his legal problems in Atlanta, Ray Lewis was back on that stage Tuesday, again being asked to defend his integrity and reputation.
Just hours after a Sports Illustrated story surfaced that alleged that Lewis used a banned substance to accelerate his return from a torn triceps injury earlier this season, the Ravens’ linebacker emphatically denied using performance-enhancing drugs in an hour-long session with reporters at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“I’m going to say it again, that was a two-year old story that you want me to refresh. I wouldn’t give him the credit to even mention his name or his antics in my speeches or my moment,” said Lewis, who will retire following Sunday’s title game against the 49ers. “I can’t do it so I won’t even speak about it.
“I’ve been in this business for 17 years and nobody has ever gotten up with me every morning and trained with me. Every test, I’ve ever took in the NFL, there’s never been a question if I ever even thought about using anything. To even entertain stupidity like that, tell him to try and get his story out with somebody else.”
“Him” is Mitch Ross, a co-owner of Sports with Alternatives to Steroids (SWATS).
Ross told Sports Illustrated that upon Lewis’ request, he provided the linebacker with products aimed at speeding up his recover from the torn triceps, an injury that occurred Oct. 14. Lewis came back in time for the Jan. 6 playoff opener against the Indianapolis Colts and his return has been cited as a reason behind the Ravens’ Super Bowl run.
Wire service reports contributed to this story