Injured Dawkins, Westbrook want to play against Giants

PHILADELPHIA -- For safety Brian Dawkins, sitting out a game with a stinger and its lingering neck spasms is as difficult as sitting out a routine Eagles practice.

Brian Westbrook won't stand for missing a game. But he will put up with missing practice, especially with an abdominal strain that's slowing down the explosive Philadelphia running back.

Yes, a pair of Philadelphia Pro Bowlers were talking about practice and just how much the daily workout and review sessions are needed for the injured veterans as the Eagles prepare for Sunday's game at the New York Giants.

"It's not necessary to go out and practice every day and then go out and play great on Sunday," Westbrook said on Sunday. "If you're not able to, and you're able to play on Sunday, you're still able to play at a high level."

Westbrook knows all about skipping practice and playing at an elite level after he combined for 221 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in Philadelphia's 56-21 win against Detroit. He only practiced once last week because a knee injury, then went out and played like someone who didn't feel a single ache.

Well, at least until he got hurt again.

Westbrook and Dawkins were two of five starters who missed practice for the Eagles on Wednesday, and tight end L.J. Smith (groin) was already ruled out against the Giants. Dawkins (neck) and cornerback Lito Sheppard (knee) missed the Lions game, and offensive tackle William Thomas (knee) and Westbrook were both hurt in the win.

Dawkins is hampered by neck spasms as a result of the stinger he suffered in the second week of the season against Washington. The All-Pro safety and emotional leader hasn't been medically cleared yet to play, and is hopeful he'll hear good news some time this week.

Considering the sensitive area of Dawkins' injury and how another hit near his neck could keep him out even longer, he understandably wants to eliminate any chance he would be tentative before delivering his next big hit.

"I don't want to think about nothing when I play," he said. "When you are thinking about something, you're going to be a step behind, or something else could happen. When I get in there, I want to be able to concentrate on the opponent, the play formation, down and distance."

But does he have to practice to play?

"Do I have to? No. Would I like to? Yes," Dawkins said.

Westbrook has no problem watching backups Correll Buckhalter and Tony Hunt taking the snaps in practice.

"I watch all the tape, I watch all the practices," he said. "I'll get some feedback from the other running backs in there, mainly Correll, and I'll go from there. I have a good feel of what this defense is going to do already."

While Westbrook said he was optimistic he would play against the Giants, he's concerned about the pain below his rib area.

"(It's) one of those injuries where you really can't give it a rest because every time you move, you feel it. You are using that muscle," he said. "But I'm doing everything to get in a position so I can play."

Coach Andy Reid said Smith's availability would be evaluated after the bye week.

"He's really upbeat about it," Reid said. "He's feeling better and he's working hard and moving around pretty good right now."

The temptation might be there to rest Westbrook and Dawkins and give them two full weeks off until the Eagles return Oct. 14 against the Jets. With the Giants and Eagles both 1-2 and each with a loss in the NFC East, Reid said he won't rush the two Brians back no matter how badly the Eagles need them in the lineup.

"I want everybody that can play to play," Reid said. "If they can't, then they can't. It's pretty simple whether you have a bye week or not."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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