Eagles running back able to practice some

Updated: November 4, 2004, 12:20 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Starting running back Brian Westbrook, who sat out the Eagles' win over the Ravens last week because of a cracked rib, participated in some segments of practice Wednesday, and coach Andy Reid indicated he might play in Sunday's game at Pittsburgh.

"I wasn't sure how much he could do today," Reid said of Westbrook, the Eagles' top rusher and an emerging young talent as an all-around player. "He was out there going through the walk-through and felt comfortable. I'm not saying he doesn't have tenderness in that spot, but he's able to do some work. And we weren't sure he was going to be able to do that."

The third-year veteran, who assumed the starting role this season after Deuce Staley left this spring via free agency and Correll Buckhalter suffered a season-ending knee injury in camp, suffered a non-displaced fracture of his first rib in an Oct. 24 victory at Cleveland. He also has a muscle strain and chest contusion.

Westbrook, 25, is listed as questionable on the official NFL injury report. That means, by definition, there is a 50 percent chance he will play.

Eagles head trainer Rick Burkholder said, just after the injury, that the period for full healing is four to six weeks but that Westbrook's return would depend in large part on how he tolerated the pain. Initial indications were that Westbrook would miss at least two games.

But as evidenced last season, when he returned to the field relatively quickly from a severe high ankle sprain, Westbrook is a fast healer.

The former Villanova standout, a third-round draft choice in 2002, didn't test himself all-out on Wednesday. But he took part in the morning walk-through and then was limited in the afternoon practice session. He did not practice at all last week.

Veteran back Dorsey Levens started for the Eagles in their 15-10 victory over Baltimore and rushed for 40 yards on 12 carries. As a team, Philadelphia rushed for only 62 yards.

In six games as a starter, Westbrook has carried 90 times for 458 yards and a touchdown, has a pair of 100-yard outings and posted 31 catches for 249 yards. While some outsiders were skeptical of his ability to handle a heavy workload, especially at just 5-10 and 205 pounds, Westbrook has not demonstrated any problems in that area.

Philadelphia's medical and coaching staffs will closely monitor Westbrook's progress in practice the rest of the week before making a determination about his status for the Sunday showdown. The Steelers, who last week ended the Patriots' 21-game winning streak, will attempt to become the first team in league history to beat, in consecutive weeks, undefeated franchises with at least six victories each.

Reid said Westbrook's chances of playing probably depend on his "comfort level."

"I wouldn't be surprised if he was able to play on Sunday," Reid said. "If he didn't play, I wouldn't be surprised, either. This is one of those day-to-day situations."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.