After suffering a severe shoulder separation against the Jets on Nov. 2, it was thought that Donte Whitner could miss anywhere from a month to six weeks of action. The defensive co-captain looks pretty determined to cut that prognosis for a return in half as he was practicing with his teammates on Wednesday.
Bills head coach Dick Jauron said he wasn't surprised to see his starting strong safety participating.
"Last week, (head athletic trainer) Bud (Carpenter) had told me he had made remarkable progress," said Jauron. "We'll just have to see how the week goes. No, it wasn't a big surprise because I knew he'd be out there today working some. He looked pretty good. We'll see what happens."
Whitner was getting treatment in the training room following practice and was not available for comment. But if you ask his teammates they sound pretty convinced that Whitner, barring any setbacks, will give it a go.
"I don't care if he's 60 percent he's going to be out there against Cleveland," said fellow safety Ko Simpson. "He's always positive. He said they told him he was going to be out four to six weeks and he told them, 'No, I'm going to be back for the Cleveland game.' So when this Cleveland game comes up (number) 20 is going to be out there no matter what."
With Wednesday being a no pads practice for the Bills, Whitner took first team reps with the defense at times, but was officially listed as limited.
Still his presence gave a big emotional lift to a team that has been stuck in a funk during their current three-game losing streak.
"He's such a competitor and he wants to be out there for us and he cares so much about the guys in this room that he wants to be out there and feels he needs to be out there," said Keith Ellison. "For him to get healthy to do all the work and the rehab he's been doing to get back out there for this game is going to be a huge lift for us. He's a tremendous player and he just has a tremendous mindset that when he sets his mind to something he's going to get it done."
That's why Jauron was not about to count Whitner out for the Monday night game either.
"I think it's definitely in the realm of possibility, but I wouldn't make any predictions at this point because we just don't know how the shoulder's going to tolerate the week and those kinds of issues," he said.
Thursday is a padded practice and the hardest hitting of the week for the players. If Whitner can come through it no worse for the wear, it would go a long way to convincing the coaching and medical staff that he can play on Monday night.
The fact that his hometown Cleveland Browns are the opponent only adds to Whitner's incentive to be ready to play.
"I'm sure it was a factor, but with Donte, you almost have to hold him back all of the time," said Jauron. "He hates to miss practice, he absolutely, it drives him crazy not to play in a game. It really does, it really bothers him. Not that it doesn't any player, but somehow, to a greater degree with Donte. He just really loves to play."