Redskins linebacker London Fletcher suffered a concussion during last year's preseason opener against Buffalo, he admitted this week.
Fletcher, 38, discussed his injury, suffered Aug. 9, 2012, during a lengthy locker room conversation with reporters Thursday after he disclosed it in a Sports Illustrated story this week.
Fletcher missed the next preseason game against Chicago on Aug. 18, 2012. Asked by the Times after that game if he had suffered a concussion the previous week, Fletcher chuckled and referred all questions to coach Mike Shanahan, who wouldn't confirm that diagnosis.
A year later, Fletcher — who has appeared in 240 consecutive games — hasn't abandoned his philosophy of playing through pain, but admits regret about keeping further concussion symptoms from the team as the season continued.
"I think players sometimes go running to the trainer a little too much," Fletcher said. "I'm just of the mentality if you can go out and play you don't need to run to the trainer about every little thing that's going on with you. Obviously, looking back I should have told the team about that part of it a lot sooner because it was something that was taken care of immediately."
Fletcher was covering a Bills tight end over the middle, but was run into by former Redskins teammate Madieu Williams and slammed into the turf. He stayed in for four more plays before heading to the locker room for evaluation just before halftime.
The neurophysiological tests didn't match Fletcher's preseason baseline tests and a concussion was eventually diagnosed. But by the next day Fletcher's physical symptoms had subsided and he was back on the field against Indianapolis for Washington's third preseason game last summer.
During a 15-year career Fletcher admits to only one debilitating concussion with symptoms lasting several days. That happened while he was still playing college football for John Carroll University when he suffered nausea. But there have been uncountable collisions that left Fletcher briefly stunned on the field.
"It's football, man. I play inside linebacker and I like to play it physical," Fletcher said. "It can happen a couple of times a game. I wouldn't classify them as concussions. They're just bell ringing. You'll see stars for a second and then you're back to normal after two or three seconds."
Fletcher conceded he was still feeling off early last season, though he disputed describing it as a balance problem. Fighting a hamstring injury anyway after a loss at the New York Giants on Oct. 21, he finally told team doctors. But after seeing a slew of specialists it was determined Fletcher had "a little irritation" in his neck. Treatment quickly helped ease his symptoms and he played the following week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Given the number of ex-NFL players suing the league for subsequent health issues, does Fletcher worry about long-term affects?
"Sure, you do," Fletcher said. "But also I signed up for this. Nobody makes me play this game. I love the game of football."
After his neck issue healed, Fletcher actually played his best football down the stretch as the Redskins won their final seven games to earn the NFC East title and qualify for the playoffs. In the end, everything worked out. But at what cost? On concussion education and advocacy, the NFL that Fletcher entered in 1998 is a far cry from the one he inhabits now. There remains a long way to go.
"You pray for the best as far as situations down the line," Fletcher said. "Having more information now, the steps that the league has taken to help players is a good thing. But at the end of the day we have to be smart as players and protect ourselves from ourselves."
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