Rich Hofmann: How hard will Westbrook's concussion hit Eagles?

Brian Westbrook (right) chats with Jason Avant in second half.
Brian Westbrook (right) chats with Jason Avant in second half.
Posted: October 27, 2009

"A boxer losing by way of a Technical Knock Out (TKO) resulting from head blows shall receive a medical suspension and shall not participate in any boxing activity for a minimum period of thirty (30) days. A boxer losing by way of a Knock Out (KO) shall receive a medical suspension and shall not participate in any boxing activity for a minimum period of sixty days. At the discretion of the physician, longer suspension periods may be issued for either the TKO or KO."

- From Regulatory Guidelines of the Association of Boxing Commissions

LANDOVER, Md. - If Brian Westbrook were a boxer, which he is not, and if he were indeed knocked cold last night after a knee rudely encountered his head, which he was, he would not be playing again until about the Eagles' 15th game of the season.

Because this is football, no one expects that. But as the Eagles enter the meat-grinder part of their schedule, it seems pretty clear that they will be doing it without their top running back.

As the real games begin - Giants and Cowboys and Chargers and et cetera - it appears as if the Eagles will have to scheme their way and Wildcat their way and Shady McCoy their way around the absence of their most accomplished runner. If Westbrook were to play Sunday against the Giants, it would be as miraculous as it would be irresponsible.

With 7 minutes and 3 seconds left in the first quarter of the Eagles' 27-17 win over the Redskins, Westbrook was motionless on the field for several minutes after taking an accidental knee to the back of the neck from Redskins linebacker London Fletcher. It was one of those scary NFL moments, easily identified not as much by the play or the injury but by the obvious concern expressed by players from both sides as the player is being attended to.

When players start kneeling in prayer in the vicinity of the fallen player, you know they are worried. When they need to be shooed away by the officials and only leave with reluctance, you know. In this case, there was the additional, poignant gesture made by Eagles coach Andy Reid. As the players from both teams were moved away, Reid made sure that one of the Redskins stayed with him near the fallen Eagles star. The player was Byron Westbrook, Brian's brother, a Washington special-teams player.

Eventually, Westbrook moved his legs and sat up and then stood up. He was immediately walked to the Eagles' locker room. Within minutes, it was announced in the press box that Westbrook had suffered a concussion. Such a quick public diagnosis is rare for this team. That told everyone, right there, how clear-cut the injury was.

Twice, he has suffered terrible injuries on this field - the field closest to his hometown of Fort Washington, Md. In 2003, it was a torn triceps in a late December game that ended his season and greatly affected the Eagles in later weeks, particularly in their NFC Championship Game loss to Carolina. Now, this.

How bad it is remains unknown. So much about concussions remains unknown. The good thing is, Westbrook has no known concussion history. The bad thing is, every concussion is different and every concussion sufferer is different. It is why boxing has those mandatory suspension rules - because nobody knows for sure.

But, well, this is football - where there are no mandatory medical suspensions, where the players deal with an entirely different set of imperatives, where self-preservation tends to diminish with each higher rung in the standings. The truth is, they lie and tell the medical people they are fine and they take stupid risks all the time.

"We're not going to put him out there if he's at risk," said Eagles coach Andy Reid.

Earlier, Reid said, "I think he's going to be all right . . . We just have to see how he does with the concussion. He's feeling better. He told me he couldn't remember anything so he didn't want to talk to you guys."

With all of that, it is hard to see Westbrook playing in the next week or 2, at the absolute minimum. And with that, they are left with their so-far-unimpressive Wildcat offense - be it the Michael Vick flavor of the spread option or the direct snap to a non-quarterback - and they are left with McCoy, who has not run the ball great lately, either.

Still, this is what they worked to fix in the offseason - life without the oft-injured Westbrook. It was what Vick was about in some ways, and what McCoy was about in every way. It also was, in their own way, what tackle Jason Peters and guard Stacy Andrews were about, too.

And now, earlier than anyone had hoped, we are going to find out what that offseason was all about.

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