Calling himself both surprised and hurt on Thursday, Whitner said he and the Bills are far apart in negotiations after the two sides held talks this week. Though Whitner said the Bills were scheduled to contact his agent, Tom Condon, later in the day, the player didn’t sound optimistic of a deal getting done.
“It’s not looking good right now,” Whitner said at his locker prior to practice as the Bills (3-10) prepared for Miami (7-6) on Sunday. “There was supposed to be another conversation today, but if things continue the way that they’re going, obviously I’m going to have to hit the free-agent market and see my true value.”
Whitner’s comments are a marked turnaround a week after he expressed optimism that a deal could get done after talks opened last month.
A starter since the Bills selected him out of Ohio State with the eighth pick in 2006, Whitner is completing the final of a five-year contract. Whitner initially signed a six-year contract, but the final year was voided once he met certain playing-time goals as a rookie.
General manager Buddy Nix declined comment, citing the team’s policy to not discuss contract talks.
Whitner has the potential of becoming a free agent after this season, though his status depends on the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement, which has yet to be negotiated.
Whitner would prefer to remain in Buffalo. He added he hasn’t set a deadline for talks, but would prefer to have a deal completed by the end of the season, which the Bills close after playing the New York Jets on Jan. 2.
A hard-hitting tackler, though undersized at 5-foot-10 for his position, Whitner’s second on the team this year with 115 tackles _ the third season he’s had at least 100.
He’s blamed his inconsistencies on spending his first four seasons playing in a 4-3 defense, which Whitner said didn’t suit his strengths. Though he’s been involved in more plays this season as the Bills switched to a 3-4 scheme, Whitner has struggled at times.
He has one interception _ five for his career _ and no sacks this season. Whitner’s also been part of a defense that has had difficulty stopping the run. Buffalo has allowed 200 yards rushing six times and ranks last in the NFL in allowing 166 yards per game.
“I do think there’s a lot of promise around here, and we are moving in the right direction,” Whitner said. “I want to be here. Let’s see if Buffalo wants me to stay here.”
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