Brian Westbrook (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Brian Westbrook burned the Vikings for a decisive touchdown in the playoffs two years ago. Now he is being rumored to the Vikings after the Eagles have announced they will release him. But first Westbrook’s multiple concussions have to be cleared up.
A new day, a new running back has back being linked to the Vikings.
On Tuesday, the Eagles announced that they would be releasing running back Brian Westbrook. Westbrook has been a fixture in the Philadelphia offense for almost a decade, but injuries, most notably multiple concussions in recent years, have limited both his playing time and effectiveness.
What makes the announcement of the release – which will reportedly be delayed until March 5 for salary cap issues that will make the 2010 salary cap moot – so surprising is that it would appear to have little to nothing to do with Westbrook’s desire to continue playing or not. For a player who has spent that long with an organization and meant so much to its success, it would have been logical for the team to come to Westbrook, discuss the matter and, if he chose to retire, have a hero’s sendoff and allow him to retire as an Eagle and take his place among the greats of the franchise.
Instead, it would appear the Eagles are merely making a business decision. Westbrook was due $7.25 million this season and, at age 30, wasn’t close to living up to that kind of a contract. Westbrook suffered a pair of concussions in 2009 and had a history of injuries that included previous concussions, as well as ankle and knee problems.
Because Westbrook doesn’t have an expiring contract, like LaDainian Tomlinson, who was released by San Diego Monday, he would be available to the final four teams in the playoffs (the Vikings, Saints, Colts and Jets), despite rules prohibiting those teams from signing unrestricted free agents until they lost one of their own.
Like the Tomlinson discussion from Monday, Westbrook would be a veteran presence that, if he cleared medical tests and has a desire to continue playing in the NFL, would be a solid fit with the Vikings. He spent his entire career with Brad Childress on the Eagles coaching staff prior to Childress getting the head-coaching job with the Vikings. He is an adept receiver and, if healthy and willing, would be a solid replacement for Chester Taylor if he leaves via free agency.
While the betting odds seem to be tilted in the direction of Westbrook announcing his retirement, the timing of the announcement by the Eagles is curious simply in respect to the team going public about its intention to cut ties with the former Pro Bowl running back. In the meantime, he has been given permission to speak to other teams, despite still being under contract with the Eagles.
Considering the Vikings’ situation – potentially losing a running back on the wrong side of 30 and potentially replacing him with one of two guys who are also 30-plus – Westbrook might find himself in the same position as Tomlinson. If either of them wants to continue their NFL careers, they likely will explore the chances of competing for a starting job, which simply won’t happen in Minnesota as long as Adrian Peterson is in the backfield. But it has made for an interesting couple of days prior to the team converging on Indianapolis for the Combine.
A bill sponsored by a pair of Minnesota legislators would use slot-machine gambling at two horse racing tracks in the state to raise millions of dollars for a new Vikings stadium. The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar) and Sen. Dan Sparks (DFL-Austin), is similar in tone to an idea floated by former Sen. Dick Day, who resigned last year to lobby on behalf of the “racino” concept.
Former Vikings assistant coach Randy Hanson is suing head coach Tom Cable and the Raiders in civil court for an incident last August in which Hanson claims Cable punched him and broke his jaw. Last fall, prosecutors in Napa County, where the alleged incident took place, opted not to charge Cable with a crime due to a lack of evidence and witnesses. However, the burden of proof is much lower in a civil court case (see O.J. Simpson) and Hanson will have a much lower standard to reach than would have been needed in a criminal case against Cable and the Raiders.
The San Diego Chargers announced Tuesday that Tomlinson will conduct a press conference today. The meeting with the media won’t take place at the team facility, but rather that Maderas Golf Club in nearby Poway.
On the show NFL Total Access on NFL Network, Vikings linebacker Ben Leber said his “gut feeling” is that Brett Favre will return in 2010, adding that a “respectable timetable is to let us know as early as possible” whether or not he plans to come back for another season.
Soon-to-be free agent Julius Peppers already has a suitor in the Bears. Things are tough in Chicago right now and the jobs of both head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo are in jeopardy, especially since the Bears haven’t been back to the playoffs since losing to Indianapolis in the Super Bowl four years ago. Not only is Peppers’ name being thrown around the Windy City rumor mill, but so is that of Packers DE/OLB Aaron Kampman. Both have been cited as Bears interests by NFL Network reporter Jason LaCanfora. The Bears were likely in need of defensive end help prior to the untimely death of Gaines Adams, but his loss made the issue even more pressing. The Bears don’t have a pick in the first two rounds, having surrendered their first-round pick in 2010 as part of the Jay Cutler trade and their second-round pick was traded in October to obtain Adams.
The Packers are expected to announce that they will place the franchise tag on defensive tackle Ryan Pickett if a long-term deal can’t be worked out. If he is tagged, it would seem DT is the big franchise position of the offseason, since fellow tackles Vince Wilfork and Aybrayo Franklin have already been tagged and the Steelers are expected to announce this week that DT Casey Hampton has been designated with the franchise tag.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.