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