Brian Westbrook: “This season is gonna be different”
Brian Westbrook was in the middle of another training session, about to begin a set of squats at a Bowie gym Monday when he was approached by a stranger with an all too familiar question.
“How’s your head feeling?” the man asked the former Philadelphia Eagles running back, a two-time Pro Bowler who missed eight games last season due to two concussions. Westbrook didn’t break from his routine, ignoring the question as he lifted the weights with his shoulders to begin the exercise. But the exasperated look on his face told a different story.
Westbrook says he’s completely healthy and has been training hard for nearly two months in preparation for the 2010 NFL season. But the free agent has been unable to shake the skepticism that his best days as a running back are behind him after a 2009 campaign which he completed with just 274 rushing yards.
“A lot of people, they don’t understand,” said Westbrook, a DeMatha graduate who lives in Upper Marlboro during the offseason. “The way to heal is to rest. ….. They don’t realize I didn’t have any time to rehab or to just train for last season.” Westbrook had surgery on his knee and ankle before the 2009 season.
“That’s why I know this season is gonna be different,” he continued, “because I’ve got time to work out, time to get in shape, time to train, time to be the best player I can be. There’s no doubt about it when I go out and I’m healthy. This year I’m healthy. No excuses.”
In recent weeks, Westbrook has joined two other local NFL veterans, Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett (Paint Branch High School) and Minnesota Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (Blair High School), for workouts with longtime friend Mac James, who grew up with Westbrook in Prince George’s County and now runs the training program Athletic Dominance.
Though he dismisses the notion that he will feel any lingering effects from his previous injuries, Westbrook understands he must convince some doubters that he’s still the same player who gained nearly 10,000 yards (5,995 rushing, 3,790 receiving) during his eight years with the Eagles.
“Every year, you’ve got to go out and prove something. It’s just now, it’s at a different level,” he said. “For me, I’ve been proving myself my whole career and now I got to go out there and show and remind people that it wasn’t no fluke. Of course, I’ve had a couple injuries, but at the same time, any time I’ve played healthy, I’ve always been successful. Those numbers don’t lie. Those numbers speak for themselves.”
As for which uniform he’ll be wearing when he returns to the field, that still remains to be seen. Westbrook reiterated Monday that he has spoken with “six or seven” teams, including the Redskins, but that he’s still determining which one is the best fit for him. He hopes to sign a contract before training camp begins but only if he finds the “right place.”
He said he has been speaking with his brother, Byron, frequently and has come away impressed with what he’s heard about Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan. Despite the already crowded backfield at Redskins Park these days, Westbrook said again that he would “love to be a part of the organization. It just needs to make sense for both of us.”
“I’m not a stranger to competition, I’ve competed for everything that I’ve had ….. in my whole career,” he said. ” ….. My goal is to go to a good, quality football team that can win.
“Working hard, that’s nothing to me. That’s just what I do.”