Always Thinking Big, Redskins' Fletcher Remains an Inspiration

By Mike Wise
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Most of London's Brigade -- the 16 kids from McFarland Middle School mentored and sponsored by an NFL veteran -- climbed the escalator of the Capitol visitor's center last week with their tour group.

"Hey, it's Nancy Pelosi," London Fletcher said, stopping everyone to pay respect.

"Hi," the House speaker said, smiling, walking briskly, oblivious she was waving to the middle linebacker of the Washington Redskins and the children who make up his District-based foundation.

"Aw, she looks busy," he said, moving on.

When you are 5 feet 10 in a 6-2-and-over profession, it's easy to be overlooked.

When Sports Illustrated calls you the "best player never to be selected to the Pro Bowl," it's easy to forget no player in the NFL has more tackles this decade.

Or that your ability to read schemes and convey the coarse language of a defensive coordinator such as Gregg Williams or Greg Blache might be a main reason a defense ranked 31st in the league vaulted back into the top 10 after your arrival.

People are already raising pitchforks around here, demanding to know whether Jim Zorn has "lost the locker room" -- as if it's some inanimate object easily found by a GPS.

We're asking the wrong question.

As long as he hasn't lost London Fletcher, the rare leader in a place few others seem to be auditioning for the job, the coach hasn't lost the locker room. If Zorn has Fletcher, this team has a shot to rebound from its abysmal 1-2 start that features a loss to the Detroit Lions.

As he has for much of his career -- from a Super Bowl in St. Louis, on to Buffalo and now Washington -- Fletcher connects the divide between a collection of individual millionaires and an authentic team with a common bond.

No one else had the gumption to admit, during one of the franchise's most tumultuous and scrutinized starts, "we're not a great team," as Fletcher did Monday. He added that the Redskins have not been a great team in the two-plus seasons he has been in Washington.

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