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Jerry Sullivan: Bills rookie Tre'Davious White takes losing to heart

Jerry Sullivan

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This goes back to when Tre White was a boy, playing youth football in his native Shreveport, La. White was often the most dominant player on the field. But if his team lost, he knew who was responsible for the defeat.

He was.

"Most definitely," White said Wednesday. "I had to. That fueled me to get better every week. It lit the fire on me so I could come out that next Monday to get better."

Nothing has changed for White, who has often been brilliant and at times exploited in his rookie season as an NFL cornerback. Twice this season, he has been beaten for big plays in losses, then beaten himself up even worse afterwards.

White got burned twice by A.J. Green in a loss at Cincinnati, including an early 77-yard TD bomb. He played well otherwise, but left the field in tears, believing he had cost the Bills a game that could have gotten them to 4-1. He bolted the locker room before reporters arrived.

Last Thursday, in his first NFL night game, White had a rough night against the Jets. He had bad coverage on a 25-yard TD pass to Robby Anderson and missed a tackle on a Matt Forte TD run.

The Bills had a galaxy of goats that night, but Tre called it "the worst game that I ever played in my life" and said he was devastated to cost his team a game for the second time.

"Actually, in the last game I cried on the sideline," White said. "I'm serious about it. I'm not the guy who's going to hide the way I feel about this game. To not perform up to my standards, it hurts me."

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White can be terribly hard on himself. On draft night, he grew increasingly discouraged when his name wasn't announced among the first 20 picks. He told his mother, LaShawnita, that he should have stayed home. She told him, "God has a plan."

"I felt I was supposed to be the first cornerback taken, or second," White said. "And it didn't happen that way. What, five corners got taken before me?"

He talks about defensive backs having short memories, but some things you don't forget. Six defensive backs went before the Bills took White 27th overall. The first was Marshon Lattimore, the 11th pick, who will be in town with the Saints on Sunday.

White was named NFL Rookie of the Month for September after leading the league in passes defensed in his first three games. But at the season's midpoint, Lattimore is the favorite for defensive rookie of the year. Some consider him the best cornerback in the league, period.

Tre'Davious White puts one bad moment behind him with game-changing play

But White says he won't be motivated by the presence of the league's other hot young cornerback. Nor is the LSU product especially fired up to play against the team from his home state of Louisiana.

"Nope," he said. "It's another game. Nobody I played with in college is on the team. My whole family's Saints fans. They hope I do well, but ultimately they're going to root for the Saints."

White said he trains with Lattimore and communicates with him on a regular basis. He said he texted his pal Monday after Lattimore took a cheap shot from Bucs wideout Mike Evans in the Saints' 30-10 win on Sunday. Evans was suspended one game by the NFL.

"I saw the cheap shot, so I checked to see he was all good," White said. "He's all good about it. He's fine."

Bills coach Sean McDermott said White is up for every game, because it's the next one on the schedule. McDermott was asked recently if he worried that White was too tough on himself at times. He said it was a fair question, but that it was a good quality to have. Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, the team elder, said it's important for a young player not to let his emotions consume him.

"It can hurt you, too," Alexander said. "So every time I get a chance, I say 'You're great, Tre. Just stay confident. You can play this game.' He's in my stretch line. So I talk to him every day.

"He's just so emotional. He's just got to work through it. This is his rookie year. A lot of this is happening to him for the first time. He's been the best of the best all the way up. Now you're at an elite level, and everybody deals with that in a certain way."

White said he's always been his harshest critic. He doesn't think of himself as some wide-eyed rookie, but a rising star who will one day be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"Ultimately, that's where I want to be," he said. "So I got to continue to be hard on myself. I don't feel I'll be satisfied until I get there. To Canton. That's it."

White said having a short memory means not allowing a bad play to affect you the rest of a game. Against Tampa Bay, he was beaten on a TD throw from Jameis Winston to Mike Evans that gave the Bucs a fourth-quarter lead. But later, he ripped the ball away from Adam Humphries and recovered it, leading to the winning field goal.

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No one player costs his team a game. It flies in the face of McDermott's philosophy of each player being one-eleventh of the unit. No one is more important than any other, win or lose. Try telling White that.

"They know how I am," he said. "I'm very emotional about this game, because I put so much into it and not to get the results I feel I deserve from the work I put in, it's devastating. It's hurtful. On the field, I never let it bother me.

"After the game, that's when I go into my depression. Look at the two games we lost, and look at the game I played. I played my worst football. It won't be behind me until I'm back on the field."

Why be so tough on yourself?, I asked him. And if you think you cost the Bills two games, you won a game by ripping that ball out against Tampa.

"Nah, I didn't win the game," he said. "I came up with the big play, but I didn't win the game."

Then you didn't lose the Jets game, either.

"I definitely lost the game," he said.

Evidently, you can't win with this kid. It's better than some former Bills, who didn't seem to care one way or another. How can you complain about a rookie who won't be content until he gets to Canton?

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