Brian Westbrook has carried the ball just six times since Oct. 26 and suffered two concussions. So despite a full week of practice, exactly how much the Eagles will be able to use him against visiting Denver tomorrow is still unknown.
But just having the Pro Bowl running back on the field may be enough.
"The name itself is going to create problems," fullback Leonard Weaver said. "Brian Westbrook is elusive in all aspects. I think he's going to bring just another dimension."
Westbrook's name has been invoked a lot this week, even if his teammates' comments are based more on his estimable reputation than the reality of a disappointing 2009 season so far.
"He's a competitor," offensive tackle Winston Justice said. "He's Brian Westbrook. So I think he's ready to go."
"He'll play a lot," rookie running back LeSean McCoy said. "He makes a lot of big plays. He's Brian Westbrook. He's always making big plays."
How many chances for big plays he will have against the Broncos is the question. While the Birds have clinched a playoff spot, a win remains vital because they still have plenty at stake: the NFC East title, the home field in the playoffs, and even a possible first-round bye.
Head coach Andy Reid said yesterday that Westbrook's limited practice this week was part of an overall plan. The expectations for his return were modest. Reid said he wasn't counting on Westbrook to play the entire game.
"We'll see how his numbers go and how he feels," Reid said. "I'll stay in communication with him during the game. He's always shot me straight, so I have all the trust in him that he'll continue to do that."
His teammates were optimistic based on what they had seen this week. If anything, Westbrook's legs should be as fresh as ever. He has touched the ball just 66 times this season after averaging 324 touches the last three seasons.
In his absence, McCoy and Weaver have filled in admirably. McCoy has 606 rushing yards along with 37 catches for 264 yards, and Weaver 301 rushing yards plus 15 catches for 140 yards. Each has four touchdowns.
Both have made big plays, and together they have developed into a decent tandem.
Weaver said he expects to go back mainly to blocking and receiving roles.
"He's the guy," Weaver said of Westbrook. "I don't mind that at all. That's what they brought me here to do. I'm excited to do it."
With Westbrook, the Eagles have more options.
"He has that quickness," Weaver said. "He has the speed. He has the ability to run routes from the wide-receiver set. So your ability to expand your offensive playbook is good."
Reid said Westbrook would not rotate in series by series. Without divulging a great deal, Reid insinuated that the Eagles could use Westbrook in specific situations. And considering his ability to line up anywhere on the field, he could also be used as a decoy.
With backup quarterback Michael Vick questionable for tomorrow, Westbrook could take Vick's role in the Wildcat formation. Westbrook has taken snaps in the formation in previous games.
"We have certain things we're going to do with him both in the run game and the passing game," Reid said.
He said there was no set number for how many snaps Westbrook could take. That will depend on how the running back feels and what he tells Reid during the game. In practice this week, Reid said Westbrook did well.
Westbrook has declined to speak to reporters all week.
With Westbrook in the lineup, the Eagles are 3-3. He has 225 rushing yards and 156 receiving yards with two total touchdowns in six games, his lowest output since his rookie season in 2002.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Westbrook was fresh. Moreover, he said that before the first concussion, suffered at Washington on Oct. 26, he saw signs that the struggling Westbrook was on the verge of breaking out.
"When we were at Washington, he was motoring," Mornhinweg said. "He was at a high level there. We'll see. I would expect him to play at a high level. He's ready to go. He has continued to prepare like he was playing in each game."
Based on Westbrook's reputation, his teammates were predicting a lot.
Said McCoy: "A huge performance."