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As minicamp approaches, Albert Haynesworth isn't the real story

London Fletcher, center: "I feel like I do all the things necessary to keep playing at a high level." He was a first-time Pro Bowler last year.
London Fletcher, center: "I feel like I do all the things necessary to keep playing at a high level." He was a first-time Pro Bowler last year. (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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By Mike Wise
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

While interviewing London Fletcher last week at a charity event, I spit out the obligatory Haynesworth question: Have you been in communication with Albert?

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Almost immediately I felt low rent, cheap. As soon as the words tumbled out of my mouth, in fact, I thought that this is what it must be like to work for TMZ, stalking Lindsay Lohan's friends to find out how her rehab is going.

Fletcher, a stand-up NFL veteran of 12 years -- unlike Mr. Brinksworth -- was good-natured about it. He answered with the usual class.

"I'll see [Albert] when he gets here," he said. "I think everyone has their own way of getting ready in the offseason and he has chosen not to be here with his teammates and that's his choice.

"You know, we would love to have him here," Fletcher added. "We have something special going on with this football team. And once he gets here and sees that, he will definitely feel good about everything going on."

But in hindsight, especially after The Post's Jason Reid reported Tuesday night that Haynesworth won't show for mandatory minicamp and wants out of Washington for good, there were two problems with the question.

One, Fletcher is a natural-born leader, but it's never been anyone's job except Haynesworth's to make sure he's part of the team. And two, it just feels wrong asking a guy who cares about others why a diva the size of Shrek has problems being part of something larger than himself.

The better way to go about it would have been to find Haynesworth in South Carolina -- possibly in a gym, probably on his speedboat -- and ask him about Fletcher, what he thinks of an undrafted free agent who, against all physical odds, made the league and finally his first Pro Bowl after so many snubs.

How a 35-year-old, one-time Super Bowl champion, who was once told he was too short at 5 feet 10 to play linebacker in the NFL and clearly didn't have a Division I or II pedigree that would make him worthy of selection, managed to get so much out of that body and mind, given where he started?

"It's all about how you take care of yourself in the offseason and training, how you prepare and take care of yourself during the season, things like that," Fletcher said. "I feel like I do all the things necessary to keep playing at a high level."

Instead of asking Fletcher about a selfish lug like Haynesworth, I could have asked Albert how Fletcher, a family guy from Cleveland who owns a home in St. Louis, actually found time in his busy life to stay in town for much of the off-season, so he could get acquainted with his new teammates and coaches.

So he could show up last week at Washington Episcopal School and personally honor the 13-year-old girl who beat out almost 200 other kids in an essay contest that benefited the Children's Inn, the nonprofit residence for families with children in groundbreaking medical treatment at the National Institutes of Health. (Isabelle Kramer, a seventh-grade ballerina who already has had a role in the "Nutcracker," won for her essay on the hazards of anorexia among dancers.)

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