PHILADELPHIA - Brian Westbrook dismisses his critics the same way he shrugs off tacklers.
He knows he isn't the biggest running back in the NFL and he hasn't played a full season in his first two years with the Philadelphia Eagles. But Westbrook is determined to prove he isn't undersized and injury-prone.
"I feel I can carry the load," Westbrook said. "I never really doubted myself. The media doubted me. Other people doubted me, not including my team. I always felt that I could do it."
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds in Philadelphia's media guide, Westbrook is closer to 5-8. No matter, he's one of the quickest and most elusive runners in the league. Behind quarterback Donovan McNabb, he's probably the Eagles' most indispensable player, even ahead of wide receiver Terrell Owens.
With Westbrook sidelined by an injury, the Eagles' offense was completely shut down in a 14-3 loss to Carolina in the NFC Championship game last January.
"He's such a unique athlete," fullback Jon Ritchie said. "He has strangely amazing balance and speed in every direction, stopping, starting. He is so low to the ground. He's able to run with incredible leverage. He's got great vision. He's a thrill to block for."
Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter and Duce Staley formed Philadelphia's "three-headed monster" rushing attack last season, combining for 2,157 total yards and 29 touchdowns.
But Staley left for Pittsburgh and Buckhalter went down with a season-ending knee injury, leaving Westbrook as the starter.
"I want to show that I can carry the load every game," Westbrook said. "I want to show that I can play a 16-game season, as well as, hopefully, the playoffs."