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London Fletcher’s Last Game

Posted by Gabe Hiatt on December 29, 2013 – 10:00 pm

London Fletcher waited in the hallway and hooked his hands into the collar of his shoulder pads.

He assumed a distant expression and listened to Darryl Tapp lead a prayer for health.

Light from outside the visitors’ tunnel at MetLife stadium flooded the right side of the linebacker’s 38-year old face, pointing out the spots where gray stubble pokes through if Fletcher doesn’t shave.

Rain drops seeped through the fissures in the metal ceiling and fell next to cleats inscribed with No. 59, “Iron Man,” and “256.” After the Giants beat the Redskins, Fletcher would sign each cleat and entrust them to teammates.

Brian Orakpo had one packed in his overnight bag. DeAngelo Hall made plans to showcase one above the bar in his home.

Linebackers trickled into the group wearing gold pants and white jerseys. The praying stopped, and the captain began his performance.

“I love each and every one of y’all,” Fletcher said. “This is my group right here.”

Fletcher talked slowly, building his lather 43 minutes before scheduled kickoff Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.

The velocity and volume of his words increased.

His neck lunged and snapped. His eyes protruded above the black paint on his cheeks. Veins traveled from his temples along his skull.

“Play with fire! Play with focus! Play with intensity! Play with passion! Go out!” Fletcher paused. “And be dominant: the most dominant, physical, focused group on the field.

“Like I say to you every week: Linebackers set the tone!”

Tapp smiled, exposing the gap in his front teeth.

“Linebackers set the tempo!”

The unit emitted a low “Yeahhhhhhh.”

“LBs on three. One! Two! THREE!”

Fletcher broke the huddle, lowered his helmet onto his head and walked behind the young men.

 

 

Ten minutes earlier the only active linebacker from the draft class of 1998, the one who wasn’t even drafted, walked onto the field alone.

Wearing a white, long sleeve shirt on his chest and a Redskins toboggan over his head, Fletcher trotted on the artificial turf and greeted New York defensive coordinator Perry Fewell with a hug. Fewell directed the Bills defense in 2006, Fletcher’s last season in Buffalo.

That was the year Fletcher paced Buffalo with 101 tackles, the year he picked off Brett Favre and ran 17 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. After the Giants game, Fletcher would list Favre, who notched 54 more consecutive games than the linebacker, as a competitor he appreciated.

After parting with Fewell, the linebacker took a knee in the end zone, laced up his commemorative cleats  and jogged a lap around the field before retreating to the locker room.

 

 

Fletcher had three solo tackles and assisted four others, bringing his season total to 111 tackles, a total he’s reached or exceeded for 14 straight seasons.

After the game he exchanged pleasantries  with the Giants and receded into the stadium. He stood in full uniform save a helmet and fielded questions about the final game of his 16-year career.

After seven years with Washington, five with Buffalo and four with St. Louis, Fletcher felt his legacy was secure.

“To play 16 years and be able to accomplish what I’ve been able to accomplish, I feel good about that,” he said.

“It’s been a long time. Time kind of flew by.”

Fletcher said he’ll explore his options in broadcasting. He’s looking forward to a time when he can enjoy a vacation without football consuming his thoughts. He said he wants to spend time with his children.

He talked about the July grass and how it will make him feel. He talked about Favre (299 straight regular seasons games), Jim Marshall (282 straight regular season games), Ronde Barber (215 consecutive starts) and Derrick Brooks (208 consecutive starts).

Fletcher said he’ll tell the story of how he ended his career in New York the same year it hosted Super Bowl XLVIII.

In the pregame huddle he told the linebackers to make that game their Super Bowl. Fletcher won a championship with St. Louis. His preparation was notorious. He treated every test like a Lombardi trophy was at stake.

Lastly, Fletcher spoke about a moment he’d remember from his final week of practice.

B.J. Blanchard, a tenured executive assistant and maternal presence at Redskins Park, stopped the linebacker to tell him he’d be missed as much off the field as on it.

“When she said that, that kind of let me know that I did what I set out to do,” Fletcher said.

“You can play this game and do some things on the field, but it’s really about impacting lives and impacting people, leaving a legacy, leaving your mark.”

Londonfans


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Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments »


20 Responses to “London Fletcher’s Last Game”

  1. By G on Dec 29, 2013 | Reply

    Snyder needs to go….not mike shanahan. Guys like Fletcher, Morris, Garçon, Kerrigan and Cousins deserve better and it starts with the owner. Snyder has meddled in player decisions and player marketing for his personal benefit since the very beginning. He has failed miserably. He continues to prove that short-term personal gain far outweighs his players and his rapidly shrinking fan base. Sell the team, Dan, and give us a chance.

  2. By akacraney on Dec 29, 2013 | Reply

    Thank you for your hard work and devotion…hope it rubs off on some for next year. Thanks again and happy retirement

  3. By bidziil999 on Dec 29, 2013 | Reply

    hail fletch thanks for all you gave:)

  4. By GH on Dec 29, 2013 | Reply

    Mike Shanahan needs to stay. It takes years to build a good team. Give the coach a chance Daniel Snyder!

  5. By dtzach on Dec 29, 2013 | Reply

    Skins are better then they played, from the beginning you cant blame RG3 for playing slow he had NO offseason or preseason, then expect to play good on opening day…. I do agree with benching him JUST to keep him healthy for next year… mike shanahan is good coach and next year will show with improving the defense, If any one should be replace its the owner and defense coordinator… If any one agrees leave a comment!!!

  6. By BLC- Virginia on Dec 29, 2013 | Reply

    Please Dam Snyder _____________________ get rid of the Shanahans!
    I have been a Redskins fan so long and we drive long distance to see games.

    You will lose more than ever if you don’t get rid of Shanahan. If not, I love the Redskins so much, but will not attend nor watch a game next year is the coach is not changed.

    How about London Fletcher for coach or asstistant guys !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. By Robyn Stultz on Dec 30, 2013 | Reply

    I have read so many different stories and rumors that I no longer know what to believe. I do know that the Redskins have had a tough season and am willing to bet that each and every Player and Coach would not have anticipated the 2013 Record in September of this past year. I have said repeatedly that all differences and anomosities needed to be put aside and Players and Coaches alike needed to work and play like a TEAM. TEAM Players win Games not Blamers or Avoiders. TEAM Players find ways to work together, accept responsibility and find ways to correct mistakes made.

    My hope for 2014 is that this TEAM will come together and Winning will once again be a Tradition for the Washington Redskins TEAM!

    Hailing to the Redskins in Upstate New York!

  8. By Robyn Stultz on Dec 30, 2013 | Reply

    Happy Retirement to London Fletcher!

    A TEAM Player who gave his All every time that he stepped onto an NFL Playing Field!

    You will be missed as a TEAM Player of the Washington Redskins TEAM!

  9. By Jerrod on Dec 30, 2013 | Reply

    Well I don’t believe Dan Snyder is the problem at all. I believe Dan wants to win in the worst kind of way. Most of us true Redskin Fans are still in love with the Cooke’s but Snyder is now the owner and he tries everything he can to build a winner. I support Dan Snyder 1000% Just get Joe Thiesman for coach and things will turn around he’s a true genius and he’ll get some quality AC’s to come with him that knows the game tremendously. Don’t hate Dan just love the SKINS!!!

  10. By Jerrod Lowther on Dec 30, 2013 | Reply

    Nobody Loved Jerry Jones right away either and he didn’t win until 1993 after buying the team in 1987. Snyder is heading in the right direction and our Skins will once again be champions real soon that’s for certain. No other owner in the league tries as hard as Dan Snyder he can’t play too so don’t blame him for trying to bring our Skins the very best available players and coaches. We have talented QB,RB,WR,DE’s, we just have build around them and find the right coach (Joe Theisman) to put it all together Let’s go Joe, Let’s go Joe!!! Raheem Morris we love you keep up the great work and you’re a sensational inspiration for our young people.

  11. By Robert Williams on Dec 30, 2013 | Reply

    I have been a Redskins fan since I was old enough to know what football was. Their were two rules in my home, Love the Redskins, and never under any circumstances pull for Dallas. I was raised right!
    I must say that London Fletcher has been my favorite Redskins player since he arrived in Washington. He goes out every game day and gives it his all. Fletcher was also the most underrated player in the game. He plays harder, smarter, and with more heart than guys half his age. I was saddened to hear of his retirement. I truly feel he will be missed for his play of the game for many, many, years to come. Number 59 was a beast and he showed it on every play, and every drive. I wanted to see him get at least one Super Bowl ring before his retirement. Mr. Snyder, I see you are looking to hire a Defensive line coach, go after London, keep him in the organization, lets give him a chance at that ring. Captain, thanks for all the great years.
    And Mr. Snyder, Redskins nation is looking for some positive changes…lets do this!!!!

  12. By Morgan Kilpatrick on Dec 31, 2013 | Reply

    Thanks fletch for all you did. You showed what a leader looks like on and off the field. Many players miss that aspect of it. Happy retirement man!!

  1. 8 Trackback(s)

  2. Dec 31, 2013: The Redskins Blog | What Went Right / Wrong: Redskins Giants
  3. Jan 2, 2014: The Redskins Blog | London Fletcher Endorses Lovie Smith
  4. Jan 6, 2014: The Redskins Blog | Redskins Offseason Diversions: Monopoly, Playstation And Paul Newman Movies
  5. Jan 6, 2014: The Redskins Blog | Redskins Offseason Diversions: Monopoly, Playstation And Waffles
  6. Jan 6, 2014: The Redskins Blog | Redskins Offseason Diversions: Monopoly, Playstation And Chicken & Waffles
  7. Jan 10, 2014: The Redskins Blog | London Fletcher Gets A Sweet Surprise
  8. Feb 4, 2014: The Redskins Blog | How London Fletcher And Art Monk Filmed The Declaration Of Independence For Fox
  9. Feb 11, 2014: The Redskins Blog | London Fletcher Sees Success For McVay

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