Linebacker London Fletcher returned to practice Friday with the Washington Redskins, participating on a limited basis. Coach Mike Shanahan said “you’re keeping your fingers crossed” that Fletcher and left tackle Trent Williams, who’s also nursing an injury, will be able to play Monday night against the New York Giants at FedEx Field.
But when it comes to Fletcher being able to play, is there really much doubt any more? He has played in 235 straight games, and Shanahan said earlier this week that he doesn’t even bother to worry any longer about Fletcher’s playing status.
Asked Friday whether that still applies, with Fletcher on the mend from a sprained left ankle that kept him from finishing the Redskins’ victory at Dallas on Thanksgiving, Shanahan said it did.
“It will apply every time he’s hurt because you know what type of mindset that he has, his recovery time,” Shanahan said. “Over 200-plus consecutive games gives you an idea. The chances are, he will be ready. But he is quite sore.”
Fletcher said he doesn’t take being able to play on a weekly basis for granted, even at this point.
“Any time you’re injured, you’re unsure what you’ll feel like come game day,” Fletcher said Friday. “I don’t take anything for granted. I just do as much treatment as possible and then go from there.”
Fletcher said that he “can get three more days of treatment before Monday” on his ankle and will play against the Giants as long as he feels that he can be effective.
There have been two times this season in which Fletcher’s playing streak appeared to be in serious jeopardy. He played the Redskins’ loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 28 after missing two days of practices that week because of a hamstring injury and undergoing testing by a neurologist for issues with his balance.
He played the Thanksgiving game in Dallas after suffering a sprained ankle four days earlier during a triumph over the Philadelphia Eagles. That was particularly difficult because of the quick turnaround. Fletcher had his left foot in a protective boot that week.
“Last week I was very skeptical,” Shanahan said. “I was hoping he was going to play but when you’re in a boot, it doesn’t look good. But you don’t know for sure.”
Said Fletcher: “I was very concerned because that was the first time I had ever been in a situation where I got injured and I had a short week to prepare for it. So that was the first time I had to get ready that quickly.”
Fletcher was unable to finish the Dallas game, a 38-31 triumph for the Redskins that pulled them into a second-place tie in the NFC East and gave them a chance to make a stretch-drive run for a playoff spot.
“Any time you’re dealing with an ankle, some things feel okay,” Fletcher said. “Some things don’t feel good …I wasn’t able to go any more [in Dallas]. That’s why I took myself out. I couldn’t be effective.”
Fletcher, 37, has not missed a game since entering the league with the St. Louis Rams in 1998.
“I don’t think about it unless other people talk about it,” he said. “I don’t necessarily look at it from a pride standpoint. It’s just a matter of just being able to be out there and play and hopefully contribute to my teammates and help them.”
His veteran teammates, in particular, speak in reverential terms about Fletcher’s durability streak.
“It just speaks to London being such a pro,” guard Chris Chester said. “That means he’s got to take care of himself on and off the field, and doing all the right things when it gets pretty old. I have a great deal of respect for what he’s done …You do kind of assume that he’s going to be out there. If there’s a chance for him to play, he’ll be out there. And I think that’s what we all appreciate about London. His streak of games kind of allows us to feel that way about him, that if there’s a chance for him to play, he’ll be out there.”