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Defensive coordinator Greg Blache wants his Redskins in the Pro Bowl

The Redskins' Greg Blache, above, said linebacker London Fletcher is
The Redskins' Greg Blache, above, said linebacker London Fletcher is "smarter than a lot of assistant coaches that I've worked with." (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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By Rick Maese
Wednesday, December 16, 2009

For the past three seasons, Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache has watched his top linebacker wreak havoc every Sunday, only to be slighted late in the year when Pro Bowl votes are tallied.

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He says he's not oblivious to the reasons, and Blache broke his media silence this week to explain why London Fletcher is one of the game's most consistent and dependable defensive players yet hasn't reached a Pro Bowl in 12 seasons.

"The thing that hurts London is that he doesn't act like an idiot every time he makes a tackle," Blache said. "He doesn't bring that attention to himself. He's a football player, not a showman. He takes great pride in his football, and he has great respect for the game. He acts the way a professional is supposed to act, and consequently, it's cost him."

Blache hasn't fielded reporters' questions since turning over his media responsibilities to secondary coach Jerry Gray on Oct. 8 for what Coach Jim Zorn said at the time were "personal reasons." His only comment since was a brief defense of team owner Daniel Snyder last month.

With Pro Bowl voting nearing its conclusion and with at least a couple of his players generating buzz for the annual postseason game, Blache agreed to discuss the merits of his top defensive players. He granted The Washington Post's interview request on the condition that the discussion be limited to his players, not his extended media silence.

In making a case for his players, Blache was animated, passionate and blunt, saying rewards often fall to the game's flashiest players, not necessarily its best.

"There are some guys who don't show respect for the game but bring this look-at-me attitude to it, and strut and dance and prance every time they do something that they're paid to do. And that gets people's attention," Blache said. "That doesn't mean you're a great player; it means you take attention away from the unit and put it on yourself. So London has been hurt over the years by his own character, his own professionalism, his class, his own respect for the game."

Fletcher has more tackles in the past decade than any other player. When he was passed over for the Pro Bowl last season, he called himself "the Susan Lucci of the NFL," referencing the television actress who was nominated for 19 Emmys before she finally won. At 34, Fletcher is turning in his best season since joining the Redskins, Blache said. The team compiles its own statistics based on coaches' film and credits Fletcher with 144 tackles, only two less than he had all of last season.

Tackles are not an official statistic, but according to the league's numbers, Fletcher is tied for second in the NFL with 118 tackles, five behind San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis.

Willis, though, also has three sacks, two interceptions -- including one that was returned for a touchdown -- and a pair of forced fumbles. Fletcher, meanwhile, has two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.

Carolina linebacker Jon Beason is also statistically similar to Fletcher with the same number of tackles and a pair of sacks. But he has three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Seattle linebacker David Hawthorne has just 93 tackles, but he has four sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

Blache said statistics don't tell the full story of every player, and, numbers aside, he thinks casual observers "don't have a clue of all the things London brings to the table."


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