Eagles will release veteran RB Westbrook so he can find new team

Brian Westbrook could break open a game from almost anywhere on the field.

Lined up in the slot, he could run a slant, beat a linebacker and take off with no one able to catch him. Out of the backfield, he was a 1,000-yard rusher who always kept defenses guessing -- and flailing.

But in his later years, injuries have defined Westbrook more than his dynamic offensive skills. And his age, salary and lengthy list of beaten body parts led the Philadelphia Eagles to release him Tuesday and save themselves $7.5 million due next season.

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"I think we all know that Brian is one of the all-time great Philadelphia Eagles," coach Andy Reid said. "For what we've done here over the years, Brian has been just a huge part of building this program to the level that we're at now. My heart will always be a Brian Westbrook fan as we go forward here."

A source told NFL Network's Jason La Canfora that the Eagles can't actually cut Westbrook until the start of the new league year next month. Recently, the Miami Dolphins had to rescind their release of linebacker Joey Porter because of a salary-cap proration.

A former All-Pro, the 5-foot-10 Westbrook led the league with 2,104 yards from scrimmage in 2007. He rushed for 1,333 yards and accounted for 12 touchdowns that season.

But Westbrook spent much of last season on the sideline, missing eight games with two concussions and an ankle injury. Westbrook had just two touchdowns in 2009.

Reid said he called Westbrook with the news Tuesday morning. Reid said Westbrook still should have an opportunity to play for another team, adding that he believes the running back wants to stay in the NFL.

"I don't know that for a fact, but I think he might want to do that," Reid said.

LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 637 yards with four touchdowns in 16 games as a rookie, will become Philadelphia's No. 1 running back.

"That's who's going to take the ball from here," Reid said.

Westbrook's season went south on Oct. 26 when his helmet collided with Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher's right knee and he suffered a concussion. Westbrook missed the last five games after suffering his second concussion in a three-week span against the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 15. He was cleared to return for the postseason.

Westbrook rushed for 5,995 yards in eight seasons in Philadelphia and caught 426 passes for 3,790 yards. He scored 68 touchdowns rushing, receiving and on punt returns.

"He had no weaknesses," Reid said. "There wasn't any one thing that you could pick out that he was not good at. He was brilliant. There are just certain guys that are just football smart, and he was one of those guys."

Westbrook, a third-round draft pick out of Villanova in the 2002 draft, is Philadelphia's career leader in yards from scrimmage (9,785). He also ranks second in rushing yards (5,995), behind Wilbert Montgomery, and is third in receptions (426), behind Harold Carmichael and Pete Retzlaff.

Westbrook is third in team history, behind Carmichael and Steve Van Buren, in touchdowns and holds the franchise's single-season record for most scrimmage yards in a season (2,104 in 2007) and most receptions in a season (90 in 2007). Westbrook also eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark 20 times (including playoffs) during his career, tying for second-most in Eagles history.

"Brian Westbrook is one of the most electrifying players in the history of this franchise and is certainly also one of the most popular," Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement released by the team. "He was personally one of my favorite players to watch each and every Sunday, and his playmaking abilities, leadership and values will be missed."

Westbrook is the second high-profile running back to be released in two days, following LaDainian Tomlinson being shown the door by the San Diego Chargers. Both Westbrook and Tomlinson turned 30 last summer and have been sidelined by injuries that kept them from performing at the level they displayed in their primes.

Westbrook's signature moment came in 2003. The Eagles appeared headed to a 2-4 start on Oct. 19, when they trailed 10-7 late in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants. But Westbrook returned a punt 84 yards for the winning score with 1:16 left in one of the more memorable plays of the Reid era.

Westbrook never played 16 games in a season because of a variety of injuries to his knees, ankles, ribs and triceps. He practiced sparingly, if at all, in his final seasons.

If Westbrook fails to sign with another team, Reid would welcome him back to the organization in an unspecified role.

"He, to me, is a Philadelphia Eagle, and he's the kind of people that you want in your organization," Reid said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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