Running back Brian Westbrook wants to return to the Eagles and believes he can help the Eagles. In fact he says he talks to Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid regularly. There's just one teensy thing amiss with those statements -- Westbrook, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent, can't have contact with other teams until a new labor agreement is struck. Here's a brief clip of Westbrook saying just that during a book signing this weekend.
For all intents and purposes, the 49ers have seemed resigned that Westbrook, their second-leading rusher last year, will not return in 2011. When head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke have talked about the running-back situation recently, they have mentioned starter Frank Gore and first-year player Anthony Dixon. They've only talked about Westbrook when prompted.
"That's always a possibility," Baalke said last month when asked about re-signing Westbrook. "We're going to look at every option whether it's re-signing a guy that's been there or whether it's going out and getting a free agent, whether it's trading for someone or whether it's drafting someone. But we're definitely not closing the door on any option."
Westbrook signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the 49ers in August, then almost immediately regretted doing so. For most of the season, Westbrook walked around the 49ers facility looking like the unhappiest man in the building. A star in Philadelphia, Westbrook had only five carries through the first 10 games of the season and had to bite his tongue as Mike Singletary told reporters the reason why the nine-year veteran - one of the smartest and most adept pass-protection backs in the league - didn't play more was because he was still picking up the protection schemes.
After starter Gore broke his hip Nov. 29, Westbrook began playing more and running well. He averaged 4.6 yards a carry from that point - Gore averaged 4.2 yards in 2010 -- and scored four rushing touchdowns in the final six games while sharing carries with Dixon.
San Francisco fans will want to know if the 49ers will pursue tampering charges against the Eagles, as suggested by Pro Football Talk. My sense is that they will not because they are not desperate to re-sign him and because the Eagles, who cut Westbrook at this time last year, likely have moved on as well. Furthermore, Reid and Westbrook both attended an event at The Maxwell Football Club Friday in Atlantic City, N.J. But if Westbrook somehow winds up in a green uniform in 2011? That's another story.
The 49ers issued a "no comment" when asked about possible tampering charges.
Last month, the NFL found the Lions guilty of tampering. The league took away Detroit's seventh-round draft pick and required them to swap fifth-round picks with the Chiefs. The case was based on comments by Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, formerly the defensive coordinator in Kansas City, who said he'd like to acquire some of the Chiefs' players because he was familiar with them. The league also said the Lions had impermissible contact with an unidentified player or his agent
-- Matt Barrows