Black Cats boss Roy Keane had resigned himself to losing the 25-year-old midfielder for six months after he damaged his anterior cruciate ligament in training.
However, a visit to his specialist last week revealed that his knee had started to repair itself and that surgery will not now be required.
Asked if he had given up on the 2007-08 season, Whitehead said: "Virtually, yes. These injuries need six, seven, eight, nine, 10 months to heal, so it was a massive bonus for me.
"When you are told you are going to be out for most of the season, it's not good.
"But I went down there two weeks later and he said the ligament has stiffened sufficiently to not have the operation, so hopefully I can be back in a couple of months."