Redskins sign veteran safety Donte Whitner
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — After absorbing several injury blows, the Washington Redskins signed hard-hitter Donte Whitner to bring some experience and physicality to their defense.
The Redskins signed the three-time Pro Bowl safety on Wednesday, putting concussed David Bruton on injured reserve.
They also signed former Jacksonville Jaguars safety Josh Evans and released defensive lineman Kendall Reyes.
Whitner has 856 tackles in 10 seasons with the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns. He spent the past two seasons with the Browns, who released him in April just before offseason workouts began, giving him an extra source of motivation.
The 31-year-old believes someone in Cleveland’s front office “had a personal vendetta” against him for waiting so long to cut him. Whitner said that cost him job opportunities over the past few months.
“I’ve always played the game with a chip on my shoulder, but I think it adds to it,” Whitner said.
“Over the last 10 years playing in the National Football League, knowing where you’re going to play, then you get slapped in the face with a release on like the last day of free agency before you report to offseason training, it’s really a slap in the face. If I was sleepwalking or anything before, I’m definitely woke now and ready to play the game.”
Whitner said he turned down an offer from the Los Angeles Rams because he wanted a one-year deal.
He also worked out for the New York Giants, but ultimately decided to sign with the Redskins, who are banged up all over their defense but especially in the secondary.
Bruton and linebacker Su’a Cravens were concussed Sunday against the Browns, and cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and Dashaun Phillips missed the game with injuries. Safety DeAngelo Hall is out for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee.
Coach Jay Gruden said the decisions to put Bruton on IR and release Reyes had to do with the bevy of injuries Washington is dealing with and the lack of available roster spots.
“Obviously Donte’s resume speaks for itself,” Gruden said. “He brings some veteran leadership and knowledge of the position, and we’re hoping that he can fill in quickly.”
Whitner said it’s his goal to study the playbook and be ready to play Sunday at the Baltimore Ravens. His new teammates aren’t worried about him getting up to speed in time, as receiver Pierre Garcon described Whitner as a “plug-and-play” type of guy.
“He’s been around for a long time,” Garcon said. “You don’t have to explain everything down to details. He just knows. He’s been there, he’s been around and he has the experience.”
Linebacker Will Compton said he grew up watching Whitner and likes that he “brings a physicality mindset” to the defense. Whitner considers himself a professional hitter, and his reputation precedes him.
“I don’t think you lose that explosiveness or you learn how to want contact or physical contract overnight,” Whitner said.
“That’s why they call me ‘Hitner.’ That’s why my name is ‘Hitner’ because that’s what I like to do. I don’t think you lose that.”
Signing Whitner and Evans fills holes at safety, but Washington still looks thin on the defensive line after Kedric Golston was lost for the season with a hamstring injury and Reyes was released.
Gruden said it wasn’t anything Reyes, a free agent signing in the offseason, did wrong as much as it was a numbers game.
“We felt like the guys in-house at the defensive line position were adequate and playing good enough and it was a spot that was expendable, basically,” Gruden said.
Notes: CB Josh Norman said he was fined $10,000 by the NFL for his bow and arrow celebration Sunday and that he’s appealing. ... Gruden said Breeland (ankle), linebacker Cravens (concussion), WR Josh Doctson (Achilles) and CB Dashaun Phillips (hamstring) did not practice. LB Ryan Kerrigan (elbow), G Shawn Lauvao (ankle), DE Chris Baker (toe) and LT Trent Williams (knee) were limited. Gruden said “there’s a chance” Breeland plays against the Ravens and has “no idea” if Cravens will be available.