When Brian Westbrook discusses his current situation, one thing is decidedly obvious – the star running back is dead set on the "wait and see" approach.
Westbrook cited no new progress in his hunt for a new contract in a meeting with the media Monday, but he remains optimistic something will get done shortly. Meanwhile, Westbrook remains focused on the task ahead of him. He wants to get through training camp healthy and in the same shape that helped him to a league-leading 2,104 yards from scrimmage in 2007.
Westbrook said his new agent, Todd France, is still working out the details with Eagles president Joe Banner.
"I'm trying to get my agent the opportunity to talk to Joe and try to work things out, and hopefully that happens soon," Westbrook said. "I'm optimistic. I'm here. If I wasn't optimistic, I wouldn't have come. But I was optimistic that things will get worked out, and hopefully they will."
No deadline has been set, Westbrook said, to get a new deal done before he would consider holding out. But he's "counting on" a deal being finished before the Sept. 7 opener against St. Louis.
He hasn't yet decided if he would participate in preseason games without a new deal in place, or if not getting a deal done before the season could keep him off the field. During his press conference, he often borrowed from the adage "don't cross a bridge before you get to it."
Restrictions in the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement might make things complicated. There's a rule – "an obstacle," Westbrook said – which could curb the amount of money the Eagles can prorate over the remainder of Westbrook's deal, if the new contract changes his salary cap value.
Westbrook said he isn't necessarily looking for an extension, but that he merely wants to be compensated as a top running back. He has three years remaining on his current deal.
"That's one of those bridges you have to cross when you get there," Westbrook said. "I'm not sure what's going to happen, I'm not sure what you can get to with the rules. But hopefully we can get to the number that we're both looking at, and work within the rules as well."
A major question in the process could be exactly how many years Westbrook has left as a premier back. Traditionally, the benchmark age of 30 is supposed to signal the career downslope for a running back, arguably the most punishing position on the gridiron.
Marshall Faulk, a future Hall of Famer running back whose style is similar to Westbrook, had his final 1,000-yard rushing season in 2001 at age 28 – Westbrook's current age. Faulk still produced until retiring in 2005 but never had the same shiftiness and burst.
But Westbrook argues many running backs continued to put up big numbers well into their 30s.
"There's guys that have played a long time as running backs in the NFL," Westbrook said. "Marcus Allen, Jerome Bettis, Warrick Dunn has played 10, 11 years. Fred Taylor has been getting it done."
But Westbrook understands the concerns, which is why he's giving both sides ample time to iron out the details.
"I'm not opposed to an extension, I'm not opposed to just playing the three years out," Westbrook said. "I just want to be able to be compensated like one of the top running backs in the NFL."