The 38-year-old, now in his 16th NFL season, is also playing in the final year of his contract. Fletcher hasn’t had the dominant impact that he has in past seasons but his coaches still see him as the anchor of the defense. However, given his age, it’s hard to say how much quality football Fletcher has left in him.
Fletcher let out a hardy laugh when asked about his approach to the final six games of the season and his plans for the future.
“It’s one of those deals where realistically, you play each game and don’t get caught up in it,” said Fletcher, who last season seriously considered retirement, but opted to return after having ankle and elbow surgeries during the offseason. “The last five, six years, I’ve contemplated retirement. Whether it’s more contemplation than last year or the year before that, for me, you just always look at it. There’s different things where you say, ‘How am I playing?’ My stats aren’t great this year, but that doesn’t mean I’m not playing the way I want to play. It’s just how the season’s been going for us.
“I feel good, physically. That’s the thing,” Fletcher said. “I’m not battling injuries or anything like that. So, I’ll look at it when the season’s over. I don’t have a lot of football left in me at 38 years old.”
Fletcher is on pace for 110 tackles – a his lowest total in the past 12 seasons – but he has still made some meaningful plays. Against San Diego, he made a tackle at the goal line to prevent a game-winning touchdown. Last week at Philadelphia, Fletcher had a second-quarter sack on Nick Foles for a nine-yard loss. And on fourth and one in the fourth quarter, he tackled Bryce Brown for no gain, forcing a turnover on downs. Washington scored a 62-yard touchdown on the next play.
He said that he still holds himself to a high standard, but knows that his production should be compared to the league’s young, impactful inside linebackers.
“I still judge myself by the young kids – the Perry Rileys or the Luke Kuechly’s and granted, I know those guys are more athletic than me at this stage of their careers,” Fletcher said. “They’re can run faster than me, their bodies feel different. But that’s the standard I’m being judged by, by my coaches, my peers.”
Fletcher said his decision will come down to a couple of factors.
“For me, it’s ‘am I still wanted, do I still want to play?’ ” he said. “I know the coaching staff appreciates the things I do around here on the field and off the field. My teammates, when they talk to me after the season, they all wanted me to come back, so those things all mean a lot. It’s something I took into consideration when I was thinking about it last year. Do I feel like I have work to do here? I think those are questions I’ll ask. And it’s not just necessarily work on the field, it’s work off the field also as far as giving back to guys and help make sure they’ll have a great legacy when I’m gone.
Fletcher continued: “A lot of guys I’d talk to as they approached the end of the career, and you’d ask them, and they’d say, ‘Man, I’m done.’ It wasn’t necessarily from a physical standpoint. This game is tough mentally. It’s mentally demanding. Each week is a new grind. You celebrate a win for one day, two days, and you agonize over a loss four or five days. That wears on you. You’ve got to be a tough person to last in this building, to last in this business for a long time. So, I don’t know.”
Fletcher said that he has no regrets about returning this season. He admits he expected the Redskins to build on last season’s NFC East title campaign. But even though that seems impossible, he’s holding out hope for a special finish to the season.
“I don’t have any regrets because I still had some developing I felt like I had to do to help Perry become the player I know he can be,” he said. “And I also still think this team can do something special. When you look at what we were able to do last year, and what our expectations were and stuff like that, we’re still confident. I know we dug ourselves a huge hole at 3-7, but we’ve done it to ourselves.”
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at email@example.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.
● Explaining the LeSean McCoy-Ryan Kerrigan play.
More on the Redskins:
Video, London Fletcher on prolonging his career