ITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — On a hot muggy morning, Browns safety Donte Whitner received a cold reception in his return to the Buffalo Bills’ training camp facility for the first time in five years.
"BOOOOOOOO!" several Bills fans yelled as Whitner took the field Monday, when Cleveland and Buffalo opened a two-day series of joint practices.
"I don’t see Whitner on the Bills’ Wall of Fame, do you?" one fan yelled in Whitner’s direction.
The catcalls and boos did not come as a surprise.
Selected eighth overall in the 2006 draft, Whitner played his first five seasons in Buffalo before wearing out his welcome once his contract expired following the 2010 season.
Though Whitner has disputed this, former Bills general manager Buddy Nix said the player didn’t want to re-sign with the team because Whitner didn’t want to be in Buffalo. Whitner didn’t help by engaging in numerous spats with Bills fans on his Twitter account before signing with San Francisco in free agency.
"Ah, I don’t even think about that. That was just something that goes on on Twitter," Whitner said. "I’m past that."
Bills players and fans have had difficulty letting go.
Last summer, Whitner caused a stir when the Bills’ future was uncertain following the death of Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson. Whitner referred to the team as "the Toronto Bills," predicting they would relocate to Canada. The Bills were instead sold to Terry and Kim Pegula, who are committed to keeping the team in western New York.
Whitner also took issue with Bills receiver Sammy Watkins. Whitner warned the then-rookie to "be quiet" after Watkins said he was looking forward to playing the Browns last season.
On Monday, Watkins was amused by the boos toward Whitner.
"Yeah, that’s what you’re going to hear when you kind of bad-talk Buffalo," Watkins told The Associated Press. "It’s funny."
Whitner, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, is entering his 10th season, and second with his hometown Browns.
In Buffalo, Whitner experienced difficulty adjusting to former Bills coach Dick Jauron’s 4-3 defensive system. In 2008, the Bills went 7-9, falling short of Whitner’s guarantee that they would make the playoffs.
"I think of it as a learning experience. I made a lot of mistakes, did a lot of good," Whitner said, reflecting on his time with Buffalo. "But that comes with maturity and growth. And I’m glad to be where I am now."
NOTES: Browns WR Terrelle Pryor was held out of practice Tuesday after aggravating a hamstring injury a day earlier. The quarterback-turned-receiver had missed more than a week before returning to practice on Saturday. … Starting CB Justin Gilbert hurt his right hip flexor Tuesday, and coach Mike Pettine isn’t sure if he’ll play Thursday, when the Browns host the Bills in a preseason game. … Pettine expects Pro Bowl CB Joe Haden to sit out one more game to rest his hamstring injury.