‘Old graybeards’ Fletcher, Manning to match signal-calling wits Sunday

October 24, 2013

London Fletcher (59) entered the NFL in 1998, just as Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning did (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

When Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning steps to the line of scrimmage Sunday in Denver and does his customary gesturing, signaling and play-changing, the signal-calling counterpart on the defense he’s facing will be a player every bit as seasoned as he is. Manning and Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher are fellow members of the NFL’s rookie class of 1998.

“It is different because he calls a lot of their plays based off what he sees pre-snap,” Fletcher said Wednesday at Redskins Park. “He does it the whole game so he’s the best in the league at doing it. He’s been doing it for so long. So it’s definitely somewhat of a chess match. He’s definitely a master chess player.”

Even so, Fletcher said he doesn’t regard his matching of signal-calling wits with Manning as a personal duel.

“Not really,” Fletcher said, “because it has to be a situation where at the end of the day you’ve still got to go out and execute, 11 guys playing their job, everybody being on the same page, doing it from that standpoint. So it’s not me versus him. It’s the Broncos versus the Redskins.”

Fletcher said he’s happy to see Manning playing well.

“It’s us old graybeards out there,” Fletcher said. “He don’t wear a beard, but I do. If he did, he’d probably have some gray in his beard as well. There’s not a lot of guys left from ’98. … To see a fellow veteran guy like myself out there playing well, I like to see that. I take pride in that to see him playing at the level he’s playing at. I mean, he’s off to the best start I think he’s ever had. So that says something about him, his preparation, his work ethic and the things he’s done to get himself back to this level.”

Manning likewise heaped praise on Fletcher during a conference call Wednesday with Washington-area reporters.

“For him to always answer the bell every Sunday, it tells you how tough he is,” Manning said. “It tells you also what a professional he is, keeping himself in great shape and taking care of himself. But also, there’s real want-to in that. No question he’s had tons and tons of injuries, but he always answers the bell. There’s nothing he hasn’t seen. Smart veteran … and really kind of the leader of that defense, gets them lined up. [It’s] always a challenge playing against London.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

What’s ahead:

● The Redskins practice Thursday at 1 p.m.

More on the Redskins and NFL:

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Hankerson misses practice | Doughty unsure if he’ll play Bowen may try

D.C. Sports Bog: Man with the Redskins pins | Plummer on Shanahan | More 

The Early Lead: Rams called Favre | Manning sits out practice | More NFL

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Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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Mike Jones · October 24, 2013