PHILADELPHIA — What if the Eagles held a practice and only half the offense showed up?
Despite the optimism voiced by quarterback Donovan McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook, that’s the predicament head coach Andy Reid is facing all week, leading up to a Sunday night game in Chicago.
Five of the Eagles’ 11 offensive starters did not practice on Wednesday, and another — wide receiver Kevin Curtis — was working with the scout team and is a long shot to play this week.
“It’s a challenge for the guys who are hurt. It’s a challenge for the guys who may have an opportunity to step in, if we’re not able to go,” said McNabb, who sat out of practice Wednesday with the chest contusion he suffered during the first half of a 15-6 victory over the Steelers last Sunday. “You never expect to have this many guys banged up at this particular time.”
Reid would probably forfeit Curtis, tight end L.J. Smith, fullback Tony Hunt and even Pro Bowl right guard Shawn Andrews if it meant he’d have McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook fully healthy in time to play the Bears.
Both essential cogs expressed hope that their recoveries would be quick enough that they’d take Soldier Field Sunday night.
Asked if he’s given any thought to sitting this one out, McNabb replied, “No. There’s not a chance in my head. I expect to be out there.”
Westbrook was more equivocal. The Pro Bowl back sprained his right ankle on the first play of the second quarter against Pittsburgh and left Lincoln Financial Field on crutches.
“I’m optimistic about getting out there and being able to play (against the Bears),” he said Wednesday. “I’ve been rehabbing pretty hard, pretty aggressively. I’m doing basically everything I can to be able to get out there on the field on Sunday night.”
Westbrook said the lack of physical repetitions in preparation is not a significant obstacle to success in the game.
“I know the system pretty well, and I study in the classroom as well as at home,” he said. “I talk to the coaches and go over the different schemes that they have, the different ideas that they have seen from the defenses, and just go out there and play ball.”
Westbrook said his rehab regimen has him in the trainer’s room for as long as three hours a day, and it includes stretching and a “microcurrent” machine.
He also said he’s been spending three hours a day in his own personal hyperbaric chamber, compared to his usual hour.
If he were doubtful for the Bears game, the Eagles would almost certainly not tell anyone, since Reid doesn’t want to make anything easier for Chicago. Incidentally, Westbrook suffered a minor injury — an MCL sprain — in Week 3 last year, and Philadelphia milked that decision process all the way to the Meadowlands before finally opting to sit him against the Giants.
Reid is playing his hand close to the vest again.
“It will be a race,” he said. “But we will see how he does here in these next couple of days.”