Redskins LB Fletcher still hasn’t missed a game

Look at London Fletcher’s career stats, particularly the column
of numbers under the letter ”G.”

Nothing but 16s for ”Games” played. On and on and on. Through
four years with the St. Louis Rams. Five with the Buffalo Bills.
Six with the Washington Redskins.

It’s become routine to say that Fletcher has never missed a game
in his NFL career. It’s routine to hear him say that he’s been
”blessed” with ”good genes.” It’s routine to hear him insist
that he only thinks about his playing streak when reporters bring
it up.

And, every year that passes, the routine becomes more
remarkable.

Robert Griffin III has missed a game, and he’s only played one
season. Keenan Robinson, the 2012 draft pick groomed as a possible
successor to Fletcher, has already missed five games and had two
serious shoulder injuries. He might not play at all this
season.

Fletcher’s streak is now at 240, the longest among active
players in the NFL. He’s been credited with 1,321 tackles and 608
assists, which translates into nearly 2,000 confrontations with
running backs, tight ends and quarterbacks – and not a single
impact that caused him to miss the next game.

”London,” Griffin said, ”has been amazing.”

Fletcher is now 38, back for another year captaining the
Redskins defense as an inside linebacker. It wasn’t a sure thing
that he would make it back this time. There were times last year
when he couldn’t practice because of injuries. Then he kept silent
for a while after the end of the season and waited until he had
ankle and elbow surgeries to proclaim that, no, he never seriously
considered retirement.

”It’s just something where you get up every day and go to work
and don’t think about it,” Fletcher said. ”It’s pretty much how I
go about my business. I get up every day, come to work and don’t
think about the durability part until somebody brings it up. I feel
good. I try to do a lot of different things to keep myself feeling
good. The training staff does a great job of working with me, and
the coaches do a great job of monitoring my reps and things like
that. So I don’t think about it a whole lot.”

Besides, now is not the time to quit. The Redskins went 32-48 in
Fletcher’s first five seasons in Washington, and the losing was
starting to wear on him. Now they are the reigning NFC East champs.
They are on the rise with Griffin, whose own medical marvel is the
speed in which he’s returned from reconstructive knee surgery.

”Well, if I was impressed with him before (last) season, how do
you think I feel about him now?” Fletcher said with a laugh. ”I
think he exceeded all expectations, and that’s really hard for a
guy like him to come in with such high expectations. And when you
think about it, this franchise has been looking for a franchise
quarterback for, I don’t know, over 20 years. So to finally get one
…”

Fletcher is two-plus seasons away from the record for
consecutive games played by a defensive player, Jim Marshall’s
282-game run from 1960-79. He’s in the last year of his latest
contract, but that’s immaterial. As long as he keeps playing well –
he’s been second-team All-Pro the last two years – the Redskins
will want him back.

”Really, in the National Football League, you are always on
your last year of your contract for the most part,” Fletcher said.
”This is just the nature of the business. I have scratched and
clawed my whole career. I came in as an undrafted free agent, so I
was on the last year of my contract 16 years ago when you really
think about it. It’s not something I spend a lot of time with. I’m
focused on this season and that’s pretty much it.”

Notes: Griffin was a bystander for nearly the entire practice
Tuesday as the team prepared for Thursday night’s preseason opener
against the Tennessee Titans. There were no 7-on-7 drills, and
coaches aren’t letting Griffin do 11-on-11 drills because of his
knee. Kirk Cousins will start at quarterback against the Titans and
play about 15 plays. … Running backs coach Bobby Turner, who is
also an assistant head coach, ran the practice because head coach
Mike Shanahan was away attending a friend’s funeral. Turner refused
to take questions from reporters after practice. Asked why he
wasn’t answering questions, he said: ”Because I’m just filling
in.” … Heavy rains forced the Redskins indoors for the first
time at training camp: The morning walkthrough was held at
Richmond’s convention center.

Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP