New 49ers running back Brian Westbrook says he’s ready to play any role
Brian Westbrook got plenty of cheers as he made his way to the field for the first time as a member of the 49ers, but most of the running the newest acquisition did Tuesday was with his mouth. In a good way. As the 49ers went through a two-hour workout in shorts and shells, Westbrook, wearing No. 20, was getting a crash course on the offense from running-backs coach Tom Rathman.
When he wasn’t in discussion with Rathman, Westbrook was engaged in a long talk with trainer Jeff Ferguson as well as mingling with his teammates.
It’s a new team, a new color, a new number and a new offense after eight years playing for a Philadelphia team that never changed its system during his tenure.
“I’m just trying to learn the offense, because I’ve been in the West Coast offense for eight years,” Westbrook said. “The hardest thing to do is sit on the sidelines and watch, but it’s probably the best way to learn.”
Until Westbrook learns the playbook and terminology, he will impart the wisdom gathered from a career as one of the NFL’s most prolific running and receiving backs.
Starting running back Frank Gore said he plans on being a good listener.
“He’s been a great back in this league for a long time,” Gore said. “I already started asking him questions. I feel he can help me get better.”
Gore was an admirer of Westbrook with the Eagles as a way of measuring himself against the league’s top backs.
“I watched him a whole lot,” Gore said. “He was a guy I had to compete against for (rushing) yards and receiving yards. He’s a special back. He’s a very quick, smart player. He watched me in practice and I asked him to help me with things he sees that I can carry on to the field.”
The competition for yardage totals ceased the moment Westbrook signed with the 49ers. While Westbrook will add some new wrinkles to the offense, he talked like a back who understood his role as Gore’s backup.
“I just want to go out there and help this team win,” Westbrook said. “It’s about winning games. Whatever way they want me to play, I’m willing to play that. If it’s backing up Frank, or Frank, he can’t go this game — whatever the situation is, I’m ready to play. “And God willing, hopefully Frank will play every single game and be able to play all the plays. If I have the opportunity, I’ll make the most of it.”
The 49ers were mindful enough of Gore’s place on the depth chart to ask him his thoughts about bringing in Westbrook after Glen Coffee abruptly retired.
“I thought if he could help my team get better and help us go to another level, I’m fine with it,” Gore said.
Westbrook said there is no timetable as to when he will be ready to hit or play in a game.
“I’m not in a rush, but at the same time it’s part of the game,” Westbrook said. “Whenever coach throws me in there, I’ll be ready to play.”
Return plans: Sounds like Ted Ginn will be concentrating on one return specialty to go with his role as a wide receiver.
“Ted Ginn, I’m not sure how much more I want to see of him (on punt returns), but we’ll see,” coach Mike Singletary said. “The ideal thing is to use Ted Ginn more in kickoff rather than punt, but we’ll let that work itself out.”
Wide receiver Kyle Williams, who will be out for two weeks with a toe injury sustained against Indianapolis, is a possibility. So is Dominique Zeigler, who had a solid practice Tuesday as a wide receiver.
Injury update: Wide receiver Michael Crabtree (neck) went through individual drills but did not participate in team sessions. Wide receiver Brandon Jones (hamstring) returned to practice with no restrictions, as did tight end Joe Jon Finley (ankle).
By Jerry McDonald