January 15, 2009 in Sports

Hobbled Eagle plays on

Defenses still focus on injured Westbrook
By ROB MAADDI Associated Press
 

NFC championship

Philadelphia at Arizona

Sunday, noon. TV: Fox 28

PHILADELPHIA – Brian Westbrook walks around slowly, often with a limp. He watches practices from the sideline, needing the extra rest to be ready for game days.

Injuries have limited Westbrook’s production this season, but the Philadelphia Eagles still rely on their dynamic running back, even if he’s only a decoy at times.

“It’s frustrating when you’re not 100 percent,” Westbrook said Wednesday. “I’ve been battling all year. I continue to be positive, I can do the things I need to do to help this team.”

Westbrook missed one game with an ankle injury and another with broken ribs. He also has sore knees that make it difficult for him to climb four steps to reach the podium for his weekly news conference. It’s no wonder with the way he hobbles that coach Andy Reid gives Westbrook time off during the week.

Westbrook sat out Wednesday’s practice, but he’ll certainly play against the Arizona Cardinals in Sunday’s NFC championship game.

“Just being able to get my legs, my knees, my ankles a little bit of rest, I think it continues to help me recover a little bit better, a little bit more every week,” Westbrook said. “That’s something that I think is playing a big part of me even being able to go out there and play on Sundays.”

Westbrook was an All-Pro last season when he led the NFL with a franchise-record 2,104 total yards from scrimmage, including 1,333 on the ground. He became the first Eagles player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons since Duce Staley in 1998-99, and led all NFL running backs with a team-record 90 receptions.

The team rewarded him with a three-year contract worth $21 million, including $13 million guaranteed the first two years.

But Westbrook struggled to match those prolific numbers. He had just 936 yards rushing and his average of 4.0 yards per carry was tied for the lowest in his career.

He caught 54 passes for 402 yards, his lowest totals since 2003. Westbrook did set a career-best with 14 TDs, though.

No matter how banged-up Westbrook appears, defenses focus on him whenever he’s on the field.

“Twenty-two eyes on 36,” Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo preached to his players before last week’s divisional playoff.

Boldin plans to play

Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin practiced Wednesday, and said he will play in Sunday’s NFC championship game against Philadelphia.

Boldin, who with Larry Fitzgerald forms one of the best receiving tandems in football, said a trip to a Dallas chiropractor has greatly improved his strained left hamstring. The injury kept Boldin out of the Cardinals’ 33-13 victory at Carolina in last Saturday’s divisional playoff game.

© Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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