Running back Brian Westbrook had successful surgery on his right ankle yesterday, according to the Eagles and the doctor who performed the operation.

Both the team and the doctor said they expect him to be ready for the regular-season opener on Sept. 13, but probably not for exhibition games.

The procedure was complicated.

"It was a very difficult surgery because of the location of the problem in the back of his ankle," the doctor, Mark Myerson, told The Inquirer.

"It's difficult to get into the back of an ankle surgically," Myerson said. "That's an area where there are a lot of blood vessels and nerves. He had a lot of loose fragments, and terrible inflammation and scarring."

Myerson, of the Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, operated on the often-injured Westbrook yesterday morning.

He said he removed bone fragments and scar tissue around the tendons.

"Like any surgery, there is always the potential for problems, but I didn't encounter any during the surgery," Myerson said. "I found what I expected. There were no surprises.

"Now he has to go through a very extensive rehab, and it will be too soon for him to play in the preseason."

Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder said that Westbrook, who also had off-season arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, would not be able to put weight on his surgically repaired ankle for about two weeks.

However, in a statement, Myerson said Westbrook "will be immobilized in a boot for one month."

"We feel pretty comfortable that he will be back by the beginning of the season," Burkholder said. "Whether he will be back by the beginning of training camp or not, it's too early to tell."

Myerson indicated that Westbrook's condition was related to the high ankle sprain he suffered against Pittsburgh in Week 3 last season. Westbrook, who will be 30 on Sept. 2, missed the following game, but aside from a rib injury two weeks later, played the rest of the season.

Myerson said that if there were no complications and the rehabilitation went smoothly, Westbrook might return to the form he had before the ankle injury last season.

Westbrook participated in the Eagles' post-draft minicamp a month ago, but, according to Burkholder, started to complain about his ankle during workouts leading up to this month's organized team activities.

The team sent him to Myerson, and it was decided that he would have his ankle cleaned out sooner rather than later.

"This is common stuff," coach Andy Reid said. "The timing of it was a little different. The injury itself, I'm not too worried about it."

Reid said that despite Westbrook's situation - his age and two off-season operations - the team was not actively shopping for another running back.

"I wanted to see what the outcome of the surgery was," Reid said. "It seems like it's all positive right now. Not that we haven't looked. . . . Do I feel urgency? No. [Not] to bring guys in."

According to the coach, he has two suitable alternatives should something happen to Westbrook.

Rookie LeSean McCoy and third-year pro Lorenzo Booker, who was rarely used last season after he was acquired in the off-season, have been splitting most of the first-team repetitions. McCoy, though, sprained his left thumb yesterday. The team said the injury was minor.

"I like what I've seen" from McCoy, Reid said. "Booker, again, we brought him here for a reason, and I think he's improved from last year. I'm good with those guys."

Burkholder said he wasn't concerned that rehabilitation would cause Westbrook to fall behind in his conditioning.

"We're actually looking forward to working with each other while everyone else is away to get him in great shape," Burkholder said. "I don't foresee it as a problem. I think that he's going to come back in better shape."

The surgery required that Myerson make an incision to remove the fragments.

"You can still have minor surgery and have an incision," Burkholder said.

Myerson said that the surgery was most common among gymnasts and ballet dancers, and that he had performed it often.

"I've taken care of these types of injuries," Myerson said. "It takes two to three months to get better. It's a fairly predictable course, but it's not a quick recovery."