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Courier-Post: Westbrook returns to the practice field


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I'm thinking the Eagles are getting healthy and ready to put up 54 on the Jets. :laugh:

SCOTT ANDERSON/Cuorier-Post file

The Eagles' Brian Westbrook was back practicing with the team Wednesday.

EAGLES AT JETS

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

Where: Giants Stadium

TV/Radio: FOX/WYSP (94.1-FM)

Line: Eagles by 3

By SEAN McCANN

Courier-Post Staff

PHILADELPHIA

http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071011/SPORTS02/710110433/1002/SPORTS

Brian Westbrook sauntered down the hallway toward the NovaCare Complex locker room with a full practice's worth of sweat soaking his uniform for the first time in almost three weeks.

Asked how the workout felt, the Eagles running back replied, simply, "Good."

That's one word, one syllable, four letters. But to those who would like to see the Philadelphia offense perform at its highest level, it looses volumes of optimism.

In the first three weeks of the season, Westbrook was arguably the best player in the NFL. But since suffering an abdominal strain in the second half of the 1-3 Eagles' 56-21 win over Detroit, he has been unable to practice or play.

Until Wednesday.

Westbrook was one of three injured Eagles starters to practice fully in preparation for Sunday's game against the Jets. Tight end L.J. Smith (groin) and cornerback Lito Sheppard (knee) also went through their paces.

"He'll do what he can do," head coach Andy Reid said of Westbrook before the practice. "I'll just keep checking with him and see how he's feeling. He feels pretty good right now."

Westbrook led the NFL in yards from scrimmage through three weeks, gaining 514 of them against the Packers, Redskins and Lions. Even the first two weeks, when the Philadelphia offense struggled overall, he was effective.

After two idle weeks, including the Eagles' bye week, he still ranks 10th, and though backup running back Correll Buckhalter gained over 100 yards against the Giants in Westbrook's stead, the importance of No. 36 to the Eagles' offense can hardly be overestimated.

Opposing defenses alter schemes to try to counter his versatility, opening up the field for the rest of the Eagles' weapons.

Westbrook downplayed his importance on Wednesday, however.

"If I'm in there, guys will maybe be a little bit more open, or there will be different coverages, things like that," he said. "Guys shouldn't think, "We can only win if Brian is in.' That's not true.

"We have to figure out a way to win without me and without the other guys that were injured at the time."

Westbrook's presence in practice, however, suggests that might not be necessary on Sunday.

"I really haven't had an opportunity to test it out fully, so I'll get out there and see how things go," he said before practice. "I feel a lot better than the bye week. This is an injury that takes time to heal.

"It's been healing over time, and hopefully it'll continue to do that."

On Monday, Westbrook characterized his injury as "a muscle tear." Wednesday he said his rehabilitation has run the gamut: "ice, steam, heat, exercises.

"You don't know exactly what's going to help it the most, so you try to do all the things that could possibly help it."

When quarterback Donovan McNabb went down with a knee injury in the middle of the 2006 season, it was Westbrook who shouldered the offensive load and led the Eagles back to the playoffs down the stretch.

With the exception of the Detroit rout, the offense has yet to strike the balance and consistency necessary to salvage 2007.

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