At least for two Eagles, the pain of being eliminated from the playoff picture by Minnesota's win over Chicago on Monday night was eased some by the news that they had earned a free trip to Hawaii in February.
Running back Brian Westbrook, who leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,896, and right guard Shawn Andrews learned yesterday that they had been voted as NFC representatives in the Feb. 10 Pro Bowl in Honolulu.
For Westbrook, it was the first time in his underrated six-year career that he had been voted in, and that meant something to him. After being named a second alternate, he played in the game in 2005 a week after the Eagles lost the Super Bowl to New England, but only because Seattle's Shaun Alexander and Washington's Clinton Portis had backed out with injuries.
"When you're getting voted to go play in an all-star game by your peers and the other coaches, it definitely validates you as a player," Westbrook said. "I hope that people will continue to see the things that I can bring to a football team and see the things I can help a football team be. Hopefully, that will continue and my good play will continue as well."
Westbrook and Dallas' Marion Barber were named reserve running backs for the NFC behind Minnesota rookie Adrian Peterson. Andrews was named a reserve guard behind Dallas' Leonard Davis and Minnesota's Steve Hutchinson.
Defensive end Trent Cole, who is third in the NFL with 121/2 sacks, was named a first alternate behind the Pro Bowl trio of Green Bay's Aaron Kampman, Seattle's Patrick Kerney, and the New York Giants' Osi Umenyiora. Westbrook, who knows what it's like to be snubbed, said he was surprised Cole was not selected.
"I think Trent is a heck of player," Westbrook said. "I think another year of great play would get him right into the Pro Bowl. There are a lot of good outside rushers in the league. Trent will continue to do good and, hopefully, will get into the Pro Bowl next year."
Despite Westbrook's outstanding work, the Eagles have struggled on offense and for victories. With 281 points, they rank 19th in the league, and their 6-8 record was bad enough to get them eliminated from playoff contention with two games remaining.
"It's disappointing that we're a good football team, and we're not playing that way," Westbrook said. "We haven't won the games we should have won and, in that aspect, it's disappointing."
Westbrook cannot be blamed for any of the Eagles' failures. Provided he plays in the final two games against New Orleans and Buffalo, he should break Wilbert Montgomery's single-season franchise record of 2,006 yards from scrimmage. He has run 254 times for 1,191 yards and caught a career-high 83 passes for 705 yards.
Teams game-plan for him and still can't stop him. Once considered injury-prone, he has missed just one game in each of the last two seasons even though his workload has increased and his right knee requires weekly maintenance by trainer Rick Burkholder's staff.
"Some people are just so convinced that the bigger you are, the longer you can play and the more hits you can take," Westbrook said. "That's not necessarily true. Some of the best running backs have been smaller in stature. A lot of people didn't have faith in the things I could do as a player. I think as a player, I continue to pride myself on making the coach think he loses a lot when he takes me off the field, so he needs to try to keep me on the field as much as possible."
That may have been an issue in the past, but it isn't anymore. No player in the NFL is averaging more than Westbrook's 25.9 touches per game, and only the Vikings' Peterson, at 6.7, is averaging more than Westbrook's 5.6 yards per touch.
Andrews is going to the Pro Bowl for the second straight year despite battling a series of nagging injuries, including a sprained right knee that knocked him out of Sunday's win in Dallas in the first quarter. He missed the preseason with a high right ankle sprain and, by his own admission, got off to a slow start.
"This season started off very tough for me, going through training camp with that situation," Andrews said. "I got obsessed with losing weight, which was bad for me. I've learned some things this year about what not to do for next year."
Andrews, who once tipped the scales at 400 pounds, said his weight dropped to 324 pounds a couple of times earlier in the year after he weighed in at the start of training camp at 342 pounds.
"Even though you look pretty svelte when you wear your suits, you still have a job to do," Andrews said. "If you don't do your job, then you can't wear the suits."
Andrews said the weight loss made it difficult to handle some of the league's bigger defensive tackles, but by midseason he was back near 340 pounds, which is the weight that offensive line coach Juan Castillo believes is optimal for the right guard.
"I think he's happy to see me around 340 or 342, because obviously he knows that for my dominance, 340 is a very solid number for me," Andrews said. "The middle to the second half of this season - probably from game nine on through - I think that was probably my best football since I've been in an Eagles uniform."
But it wasn't good enough to keep the Eagles from being left out of the playoffs for the second time in three years.
"It's a happy/not-so-happy day," Andrews said. "We just have to finish out the season strong and know what we have here and know what we will be starting with next year."
Extra points. Andrews said he was optimistic about playing in the final two games despite the knee injury that knocked him out of Sunday's game. . . . Safety Brian Dawkins, who has been to the Pro Bowl six times, was voted as a second alternate. . . . Miami defensive end Jason Taylor is the only player from a Florida team going to the Pro Bowl, even though the Dolphins are 1-13 and the two other Florida teams - Tampa Bay and Jacksonville - are a combined 19-9.
Which Eagle was snubbed as a starter in Pro Bowl voting? Vote at http://go.philly.com/sports.EndText