Make no mistake, there is no coincidence to the timing of the San Francisco 49ers’ hard-hitting safety changing his name to Donte Hitner. He said Wednesday that his attorney has filed paperwork in Ohio to make the name change legal, something he hopes is done in time for Sunday’s home game against Houston so he can have Hitner on his jersey. However, he said it likely will not be completed in time.
In a lot of ways, the name change is a statement to the NFL. He is saying he is a hitter -- that that’s what he does -- but he is not sure he will be allowed to do so. Whitner was penalized for 15 yards in Week 3 against the Colts. The NFL passed on fining him because he led with his shoulder and not the crown of his helmet. Last week, in St. Louis, Whitner was penalized for a hit on Rams receiver Chris Givens and later was fined $21,000. Whitner filed an appeal of the fine and then went forward with the legal paperwork for the name change.
“Yes, the timing is right,” he said. “The name change does have something to do with everything that is going on.”
Whitner has said he thinks he is expected to let receivers catch the ball under today’s rules and that perhaps the league is saying to just play flag football.
He said Wednesday that he would like a chance to watch film with league officials so he can know what exactly he can and cannot do on the field. He said he hopes it is something the NFL Players Association sets up to bring clarity.
Until he gets that clarity, he will be making the statement on the back of his jersey.