When the Washington Redskins’ 2012 season ended with their 24-14 playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, inside linebacker London Fletcher stood up in the locker room and addressed his teammates with what many said felt like a farewell speech.
He thanked them for their contributions, told them how special the season had been as the team rebounded from a 3-6 start to finish the regular season 10-6, win the NFC East and reach the postseason. The 2012 campaign had been the 15th of Fletcher’s career. He had battled injury for much of the season but continued to play at a high level, finishing with 139 tackles, three sacks and a team- and career-high five interceptions.
For roughly two months, the Redskins faced uncertainty over whether Fletcher would return for another season. But in March, Fletcher opted to have surgery on his elbow and ankle, and informed team officials of his intention of lacing them up yet again.
The 38-year-old Fletcher went through conditioning and strength drills during this week’s round of offseason practices, but didn’t suit up for any team or unit drills. He reports, however, that his recovery from both surgeries has gone well, and that he remains on target to open the season in his usual role as captain of Washington’s defense.
“I’m feeling good, getting better each day. Getting stronger. I’m right on schedule to be ready,” said Fletcher, who has played 240 consecutive games – the longest active streak in the NFL.
Fletcher said despite the outside uncertainty, his speech at the end of the season wasn’t meant to be a farewell, and that he wasn’t close to retiring.
“No,” Fletcher said, “it was really just anytime you have a season like that, you don’t get a chance to really appreciate what you accomplish, so I really wanted to let the guys know, and really express to them how gratifying it was, you know, for me, personally, being around these guys, seeing what we were able to accomplish, seeing what we were able to overcome, giving the odds we were up against – particularly being 3-6 and how we finished. So, really, it was just me expressing that.”
Asked about the decision to return for a 16th season, Fletcher said: “It’s just the desire to continue to play. I’m still playing at a high level, the team still wanted me to play. So, a lot of those things come into play. I still love the game of football, so those were the decisions. Also, I like where this team is at, the makeup of it. Those were all factors.”
Fletcher said the moves made in the draft – the selection of a cornerback and two safeties – were encouraging signs that the Redskins remain on target to continue improving on defense.
“You like it,” he said. “Really, any time you can add depth to your team, competition, that’s a good thing. I know they feel great about the draft picks, the guys they were able to add. Those guys are coming along each and every day, getting better. So, from that standpoint, I think they’re going to help us be a better team, be a better defense.”
Coach Mike Shanahan said he expects that Fletcher will take the field for next week’s round of practices. He had told the veteran that he could take the three weeks of this phase of offseason sessions off, but Shanahan said Fletcher informed him that wouldn’t be necessary, and that he wanted to get in some reps to help prepare himself for training camp, which begins on July 25.
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question” for it to be answered in The Mailbag, which runs this week on Tuesday.
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