London Fletcher undergoes ankle surgery, eyes return next season–Updated


London Fletcher (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Update: 2:50: Fletcher announced via Twitter that his ankle surgery went well, and reaffirmed his intention to play in 2013.

“Surgery went great…thanks for all the well wishes!” he tweeted. “Prep begins now for season 16! #Monster216 #HTTR”
Redskins linebacker London Fletcher is scheduled to undergo ankle surgery Wednesday and plans to play the 2013 season as long as he remains convinced he can do so at a level that satisfies him, a person familiar with the situation said.

Fletcher also is scheduled to undergo elbow surgery later this month, the person said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity because the Redskins had not commented publicly on Fletcher’s surgeries or his plans for next season, the person said that Fletcher is “not planning on retiring” but still must make certain that his body will recover to the point necessary to play well.

“The word retirement has not come out of his mouth,” the person said. “That’s why he’s getting these surgeries. He has to see if he can get healthy and get in shape, and make sure he can play at the level he wants to play.”

Fletcher told 106.7 The Fan, which first reported the surgeries, that “surgery is the first step towards prepping for next season.”

He said last month that he was undergoing what had become, for him, a standard offseason evaluation process.

“It’s still a process,” Fletcher said then. “Understand I do this every year, probably the last four or five years. It’s just when you get older in your career, you have to evaluate everything. Health is one thing. Can I still do it at the level that I want to do it at and play at?  So this year is no different than those years in the past.”

Fletcher, who turns 38 in May, has played 15 NFL seasons, the last six of them with the Redskins.

The person familiar with the situation stopped shy of calling Fletcher’s return definite, because Fletcher still must see how well he recovers from the surgeries. But Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said he expected all along for Fletcher to do his best to play a 16th season.

“I figured he was still wanting to play,” Alexander, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency next week, said Wednesday. “He thought we were so close last year and I expected that he would want to try to help us get to that next level of going further in the playoffs or winning a Super Bowl.”

Fletcher was named to his fourth straight NFC Pro Bowl team last season. He was originally chosen as an alternate, but he and fellow Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan filled vacancies on the NFC team created when the San Francisco 49ers’ Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith reached the Super Bowl.

It was a season of nagging injuries for Fletcher, including a sprained left ankle and an ailing hamstring. He also underwent testing by a neurologist in October after experiencing issues with his balance. Fletcher’s ability to participate in practices was severely limited and there were several weeks in which his playing status was in question. But he played on, as always. He has not missed a game during an NFL career that began with the St. Louis Rams in 1998.

“I’m not really sure [how much the injuries affected Fletcher] because he’s real guarded and doesn’t want to use that as an excuse,” Alexander said. “But I know it was enough for him not to practice every day, and he loves to practice. So for him to sit down, that says it was pretty bad…. He’s not a ‘woe is me, build me up because I’m playing hurt’ kind of guy.”

Fletcher’s surgery Wednesday apparently was on the left ankle that plagued him last season.

Fletcher was credited with 139 tackles, three sacks and a career-best five interceptions in 2012. He was named the NFC’s defensive player of the month for December. He called the Redskins’ run to the NFC East title and a playoff appearance the second-most satisfying experience of his NFL career, behind only his Super Bowl triumph with the Rams.

“I’m so proud of this team,” Fletcher said immediately after the Redskins’ first round playoff loss Jan. 6 to the Seattle Seahawks at FedEx Field. “Besides winning the Super Bowl, this is the best feeling I’ve had around a football team. It all starts with our head coach, Coach [Mike] Shanahan. He’s the leader. He laid the blueprint for us on this run and I don’t think he gets enough credit for what he was able to do.”

Fletcher remains under contract to the Redskins for next season and would count $6.2 million against the salary cap. Alexander said Fletcher’s return, if indeed it happens, would be a significant development for the Redskins as they try to build on last season’s success.

“He’s huge,” Alexander said. “It goes under the radar how much of a coach he is on the field and on the sideline as far as making adjustments with Haz [defensive coordinator Jim Haslett]. He has an ability to see what’s going on on the field and what spots everyone needs to be in, and understand what adjustments need to be made. There’s nobody even close to him in the league that’s able to do that from the mental and physical aspect.”

More Redskins coverage: Trent Williams is working out with Adrian Peterson

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Mike Jones · March 5, 2013