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News » Eagles' Westbrook admists ankle not healed By Ray Parrillo

Eagles' Westbrook admists ankle not healed By Ray Parrillo

Eagles' Westbrook admists ankle not healed By Ray Parrillo
It's long been a frightening thought for anyone who is emotionally invested in the fortunes of the Eagles: Where would they be without Brian Westbrook?

Lately, they've found out exactly where, and it's not en route to one of the Super Bowl championships the owner, Jeffrey Lurie, planned on having by now when he hired Andy Reid as coach 10 years ago.

Sure, Westbrook has been in the lineup in each of the four games since he sat out the Oct. 12 game at San Francisco with fractured ribs. But for the most part, he hasn't been the Brian Westbrook who last season established himself as one of the great running backs in team history when he amassed an NFL-leading 2,104 yards from scrimmage.

The third game of the season, Westbrook suffered a sprained right ankle in the second quarter against Pittsburgh. He admitted yesterday that the ankle has yet to fully heal, and added that although it may feel fine at the start of games, it gets worse as the games wear on.

Westbrook did not practice yesterday, which is not unusual. Over the years, he frequently has sat out practices because of a balky knee. But the knee rarely has affected his play. The sprained ankle has.

"With the ankle injury, it's a little bit tougher [than the knee] because it's harder to cut, harder to do the things I'm able to do to make people miss," Westbrook said. "As opposed to the knee, which I've been dealing with for 10 years now, or however long. It's a little bit tougher with the ankle. It gets healthy enough to play the game, but during the game it basically gets reinjured."

Westbrook is tough and earnest and probably would prefer to run barefoot on broken glass than say anything that might be construed as an excuse. He also adheres to the Reid code that no player should discuss his injuries unless the person listening is the team trainer. So his admission that the ankle is affecting his electrifying game was unusual.

"I'm pretty sure it's not going be completely healed this week or next week or whenever," Westbrook said. "It's just one of those things where you try to get it as good as you can get it on Sunday and play through it."

With their margin for error razor thin, the Eagles play the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday, and coach John Harbaugh's defense ranks No. 3 in the NFL against the run. The New York Giants found a way to crash through the Ravens' wall for 207 yards on the ground in Sunday's 30-10 win. But the Giants use three running backs and are committed to overtaking their opponents by land.

And since the Ravens' defense has been embarrassed, Baltimore is likely to be in a bad mood when it plays the Eagles. An ill-tempered Ravens defense going against a running back with a creaky ankle is not a good combination for the Eagles.

Some might say, what's the difference? The Eagles played five miserable quarters to get a 13-13 tie with Cincinnati on Sunday and Westbrook had only 14 carries while Donovan McNabb tossed 58 passes. Only three of those passes were caught by Westbrook, who broke a franchise record with 90 catches last year.

Maybe Reid didn't turn to Westbrook frequently because he knew the running back was hurting. Which raises the question: Why not use Correll Buckhalter, who got the ball twice against the Bengals? On one of those touches, he went 44 yards with a screen pass. In the two games Westbrook missed and Buckhalter started, Buckhalter had 90 yards from scrimmage against the Bears and 178 yards from scrimmage against the 49ers.

Last week, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said he wanted to give Buckhalter more work. It didn't happen.

Asked about it yesterday, Buckhalter played the good soldier.

"I really haven't thought about it," he said. "It's just that when your number is called, and if you make things happen, you're going to get more plays."

Last season, Westbrook averaged 143 yards a game from scrimmage. This season, he's averaging 90. He said he would take himself out of the lineup if he thought he couldn't help the team, but players as diligent as Westbrook rarely take themselves out of the lineup.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you that he's 100 percent," Reid said. "If we take care of business around him, he can still function very well."

But the Eagles have become so dependent on Westbrook the last few seasons, they need him to be closer to 100 percent than he appears to be.

"It will be Coach's decision, as well as mine, if I'm not helping this team, to get somebody else in there," Westbrook said. "I'm still trying to do everything I can to help this team win."

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 20, 2008

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