Cornerback Ronyell Whitaker's playing time with the Minnesota Vikings seems to have decreased over the past two years in his time with the team. He started contributing as a nickel back at times in 2006 and by the end of the 2007 wasn't even considered one of the top four cornerbacks except for an injury to Antoine Winfield.
Still, Whitaker isn't about to give up hope of returning to the Vikings despite his status as a pending free agent.
"I would love to come back and play here, but it's just one of those things," he said.
Whitaker has been over at the Vikings' Winter Park practice facility in the past few weeks and talked with some of his coaches, he said, but the talk didn't focus much on football.
Playing time has never come easy to Whitaker since becoming part of the NFL in 2003. As a rookie, he played in four games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and started one after spending eight weeks on their practice squad. He returned and spent the following season on the Bucs practice squad. However, in 2005, Tampa Bay waived Whitaker during training camp.
In 2006, he played in a career-best 16 games with the Vikings, including two starts. Last year, he played in 11 games, but he didn't end up starting any of those. Despite still not having a career interception in the NFL, he is looking to build on the opportunity that the Vikings gave him the last two seasons.
"I just want to be with good coaches and good people, and I think that's what they have here," Whitaker said. "The whole organization is taking strides in every aspect – not only the players but the coaches they added. … That's the main thing that's important to me – and of course playing time and things of that nature. But, like I've said before, players play and coaches coach and you can't really get too caught up in how coaches feel about you. At this standpoint, I'm 28 years old so I ain't going to be playing for long, but I do want to play. I don't really have time to be sitting down and watching other people play."
It seems a bit shocking that Whitaker is 28 years old and only has two official years in the NFL, but that's the life of a player who has struggled to earn everything given to him on the football field. After starting 32 career games with the Virginia Tech Hokies, Whitaker entered the league in 2003, but his four games played in his rookie season, the ensuing season on the Buccaneers practice squad and the 2005 season spent out of the league haven't worked to his NFL credit.
Now, as his career enters yet another crossroads, he could be faced with a decision to make in free agency – stay with the team that offered him the best opportunity over the last two years or hope another team might supply an even better prospect. He says he might have to wait until March to weigh his options, which he thinks might include more playing time with another club.
"I'm just sitting back to see what's going to happen," he said. "… Like I told (my agent), I'd love to come back and play for the Minnesota Vikings."
He said it might be a risk to wait until free agency starts, but he is trusting his agent.
"He's never let me down so far, so I just go out and play between the lines," he said.
Whitaker Could Wait Until March
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