As Brian Westbrook undergoes surgery this morning, it is interesting to take a look around the country and see what the national take is on the Eagles' running back.
Instead of words like playmaker and threat, we're hearing aging and worn-down.
If Westbrook's recovery goes smoothly, there's no question he'll use this as motivation. The question is: Will his body cooperate?
Here's a sampling of the national opinion. Feel free to chime in on what side of the fence you rest on.
ESPN.com's John Clayton breaks down 11 running back situations around the NFL, including the Eagles':
Brian Westbrook's ankle surgery Friday isn't expected to be a big deal, because it's only supposed to clean up bone-spur problems. But you have to wonder about the accumulation of knee and ankle problems that Westbrook can't seem to shake. He's 29, and the pounding on his body is starting to take a toll. That's why the selection of LeSean McCoy could play big into the equation. McCoy must speed up his education to be the backup, and might be on call to start if necessary. You get the feeling Westbrook should be OK for mid-training camp and the regular season, but it doesn't seem likely he can stay healthy for 16 games.
ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio says Westbrook's age is more of a concern than his surgery:
The deeper concern should be, in our view, that the needle on Westbrook's football gas tank is getting dangerously close to "E". It's one of the basic realities of playing running back in the NFL, where the fame and the glory comes with less money than players at most other positions and a shortened career. The third-round pick in the 2002 draft will be 30 when the next NFL season starts, and it would be wise for the Eagles to begin reducing their expectations when it comes to Westbrook's contributions, both in the short-term and down the road.
SI.com's Don Banks has a similar stance on Westbrook:
Let's skip the sky-is-falling routine over the news Eagles running back Brian Westbrook will undergo surgery to remove some bone spurs from his right ankle Friday. It'll be his second surgery this offseason following an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee in February. That's no reason to panic, per se, but consider the following: Westbrook turns 30 on Sept. 2, and history shows that's around when NFL running backs start to hit the wall physically. Somebody start the countdown clock in Philly.
Banks goes on to write that Westbrook's production was down last year.
ESPN.com's Sal Paolantonio, who has been urging the Eagles to sign a veteran running back all offseason, lists some guys they should consider adding:
And what if Westbrook, who already had offseason surgery on his left knee, has another setback? He turns 30 on Sept. 2. He is coming off his least productive year as an Eagle, especially in the playoffs, when he rushed for just 2.4 yards a carry, well below his postseason career average of 4.6 yards a pop.
Matt Bowen of the National Football Post writes that time is catching up to Westbrook:
This will be his second surgery this offseason as he has already had his knee cleaned out. I can tell you from personal experience that this is a sign the end is closer than you think. You don't take parts out of race cars and expect them to run at top speed — and the same goes for running backs.
Mike Lombardi of the National Football Post thinks the injury's not all bad because it will give the Eagles the chance to take a better look at LeSean McCoy:
However, the injury has some long-range concerns, mostly centering on later in the season. For the Birds to win the Super Bowl, they will need Westbrook to have a typical Westbrook year, or for LeSean McCoy to make an impact as a rookie. The Eagles are not a power running team; they utilize the screen game, space-passing play to complement their offense. And Westbrook is a vital part of this. He has never played 16 games in his career, so being healthy all season is not likely, but for the Eagles to make a run, being healthy at the right time is critical.