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Phil Sheridan | Eagles' injuries part of the game

Brian Westbrook, who knows a little bit about the subject, put the question of Donovan McNabb's series of injuries into sharp perspective.

Brian Westbrook, who knows a little bit about the subject, put the question of Donovan McNabb's series of injuries into sharp perspective.

"I've said this about myself and I've said it about other players," Westbrook said the other day. "Injuries are a part of the game. No matter what you do to prepare yourself, how well you're playing, if it's meant for you to be injured, you're going to get hurt."

In other words, there's no mystery here. It's football, a game of high-speed collisions and unnatural demands on the human body. It's no wonder players like Westbrook and Jevon Kearse are irritated by the idea that they are injury-prone.

It's not as if these guys are falling in the shower or tripping over uneven sidewalks. They're playing the most violent sport on the planet and paying the price with occasional breaks and tears and sprains.

The shorthand explanation of the Eagles' decision to draft Kevin Kolb includes McNabb's injury history: He hasn't finished three of the last five regular seasons. However, it fudges the fact that McNabb returned from a broken ankle to play in the postseason after one of those regular seasons.

The sports hernia from 2005 has no relation to the ankle injury of 2002. The torn knee ligament of 2006 is likely unrelated to either, although you wonder if McNabb's off-season workout routine might have contributed to it. That's purely a layman's speculation, but no one ever explains how a ligament tears on a noncontact play like the one that ended McNabb's season.

While the injuries give Andy Reid a valid reason to find and develop a young quarterback, they don't necessarily predict anything.

Kearse, a defensive end who missed most of one season with a broken foot and most of last season with torn knee ligaments, could get hurt this year. Or not.

Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who has blown out both knees, could suffer a serious injury this year. Or not.

Westbrook, a running back who has sustained injuries major and minor during his pro and college careers, could get hurt on any given play. Or not.

And so it is with McNabb. If he continues to break down over the next season or two, Kolb could prove to be a great pick. But if you want the Eagles to contend for the Super Bowl this year or next, you'd better root hard for McNabb to return and remain healthy - as he did in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004.

"He has to try and find a way to stay healthy for a whole year, the same way as I do, and the next guy has to find a way to stay healthy for a whole year," Westbrook said. If McNabb "does that, he'll have another successful year."

A couple of weeks ago, after the news conference to introduce the throwback uniforms the Eagles will wear for a game this season, owner Jeffrey Lurie gave a little insight into the organization's view of the state of this team.

"We were a playoff team at the end of last year," Lurie said, "and now we're adding our best offensive and best defensive player to that team."

He meant McNabb and Kearse, who were injured before the late-season, five-game winning streak that gave the Eagles the NFC East title. You can throw in Darren Howard, the defensive end who Reid said yesterday was "playing at a Pro Bowl level" before injuries hampered his effectiveness.

It sounds good. Put McNabb back in the offensive mix, then put a healthy Kearse and Howard into the rotation at defensive end. Throw in some Takeo Spikes and this should be a better team than the one that lost in New Orleans in January.

If only it were that simple.

Midway through Saturday's first minicamp practice, wide receiver Reggie Brown went down with what turned out to be a minor leg injury. For a second, memories of Correll Buckhalter's minicamp knee blowout came rushing back. Brown's OK, but the incident was a reminder that anyone can get hurt at any time. Just when you think McNabb or Westbrook should be covered with bubble wrap, some previously uninjured star can go down and mess up the season.

"You want to try and get as good as you can get in the off-season," Reid said yesterday. "You look for your weaknesses and try and strengthen them as you go throughout the off-season."

The Eagles can be stronger at linebacker if Trotter and Spikes both have the kind of seasons they had in their primes.

They can be deeper and more dangerous along the defensive line if Kearse and Howard are the players the Eagles envisioned when they signed them.

And they'll be just fine at quarterback if McNabb is all the way back to being McNabb.