Former rival Brian Westbrook will visit with Washington Redskins

The Washington Post's Mark Maske and Barry Svrluga talk about the chances of the former running back for the Philadelphia Eagles coming to Washington.
By Rick Maese and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Despite a backfield that already resembles the NFL's 2006 Greatest Hits collection, the Redskins are expected to meet Wednesday with free agent running back Brian Westbrook, one of the league's most productive running backs before concussions cut short his 2009 season and endangered his career.

In addition to Clinton Portis, the team's incumbent starter, the Redskins have signed Larry Johnson and Willie Parker this offseason. But because of Westbrook's productive partnership in Philadelphia with new Washington quarterback Donovan McNabb, the team is apparently deciding whether it should add yet another high-profile back on the roster.

"It could be a possibility," Redskins' cornerback Byron Westbrook said about the potential of becoming his brother's teammate for the first time since the two were children.

"We do have three great backs on the team right now," he continued. "With my brother, it would be adding another dimension from a pass-catching standpoint and a great third-down running back. And also a great first- and second-down running back as well."

The Redskins' level of interest was not immediately clear. Before news surfaced Tuesday that Westbrook would be meeting with the Redskins, he was scheduled to share a stage at Springarn High on Wednesday with Washington General Manager Bruce Allen, both speaking to 175 area high school football players as part of the NFL High School Player Development program. The annual event is organized by Bill McGregor, football coach at DeMatha, Westbrook's alma mater.

Westbrook and Allen are expected to meet outside of the school, and the running back will likely visit Redskins Park to meet with coaches.

An ESPN report Tuesday stated that McNabb might have encouraged coaches to consider Westbrook. For his part, the running back's younger brother says he's not leading any sort of lobbying committee.

"I'm not part of that decision-making process," Byron Westbrook said. "Obviously, he's my brother, and it would be great to have the chance to play with him, but I'll let him handle all of that."

When in top form, Westbrook was one of the league's top pass-catching backs, and he served as a reliable third-down security blanket for McNabb. He was an every-down threat that defensive coordinators prepared for each week.

But in Washington, he could be the fourth veteran back who brings heavy credentials to the job.

Each of the four, in fact, has topped 1,000 yards rushing at least twice in his career. Westbrook, who will be 31 years old by the start of the season, last did so in 2007, when he had 1,333 yards rushing, 771 receiving and 12 touchdowns.

The Redskins aren't obligated to keep any of the running backs. They could add Westbrook and still to choose to enter the regular season with just two of the big-name stars. The Redskins have two other running backs under contract as well: Ryan Torain, a speedy back who was originally drafted by Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan in Denver, and Keiland Williams, an undrafted free agent out of LSU who was signed last month.

Though league sources say the St. Louis Rams are still interested in Westbrook's services, it's been a slow free agency period for the eight-year veteran. He suffered two concussions last season with Philadelphia and appeared in only eight games, which likely scared off many potential suitors.

He suffered his first concussion Oct. 26, when his helmet hit the knee of Redskins' linebacker London Fletcher in the Eagles' 27-17 victory over Washington at FedEx Field.

"He did get cleared medically when he [recently] visited the Rams," Byron Westbrook said. "They did a physical, a checkup on him, and the Rams did deem that he was good to play. Remember, at the end of the season, after the second one [concussion], he did get a change of helmets. It was more of a concussion helmet, which helped him take hits in the head. The question is going to be in the back of his mind, but you're going to take those hits if you're going to play this game."

The Redskins have hosted many free agents but signed few in the early days of Shanahan's tenure. Parker was signed a couple of weeks after his initial visit to Redskins Park. So even if Westbrook isn't signed this week, the Redskins could simply be exploring their options for the down the road.

"The Redskins are bringing him in for a visit, so they have interest, but he still has to weigh his options," Byron Westbrook said. "They already have three great backs here. He doesn't know what our team is going to do right now, and you can't have four great running backs on the team and not know what role you're going to play. You've just got to be patient, see what they say on his visit and go from there."

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