London Fletcher announced Wednesday that this season will “more than likely” be his last in the NFL, bringing an end to a career that has spanned 16 years.
Fletcher said he’s “99 percent” certain he’ll hang it up after the Redskins’ final two games, adding “Got to leave that one percent just in case I change my mind.”
The announcement allows Fletcher to enjoy one last home game on Sunday, when the Redskins will host the Dallas Cowboys.
“Thought with this being the final home game, this being Dallas Cowboys week, an opportunity to go out with a bang,” Fletcher said. “Get the fans riled up, say thank you to them, beat the Cowboys. What better way to end it?”
The 38-year-old linebacker is in his seventh season with the Redskins and has led the team in tackles each year since his arrival in 2007. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl after each of the last four seasons, was named an All-Pro in 2011 and 2012 and led the NFL with 166 tackles in 2011.
He has played in 254 consecutive games and started the last 214, the most by any linebacker in NFL history. He shook off a severe left ankle injury sustained in the Dec. 1 loss to the New York Giants and, much to the surprise of Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, was back on the practice field the next Wednesday and hasn’t missed a game.
Fletcher also spent five years with Buffalo and four with St. Louis, where he won the Super Bowl in 1998 as an undrafted rookie out of John Carroll University.
“I have never been around a guy quite like London,” Shanahan said. “The way he prepares for every game is like he’s preparing for a Super Bowl. His leadership is unquestioned. When I came in here everybody had the utmost respect for him both on and off the football field. And so to have a guy like that in your organization makes it so much easier for a coach because the young guys learn the right way to do things right from the start.”
But 2013 hasn’t been the easiest season for Fletcher. He has two sacks with 98 combined tackles and a forced fumble. Prior to this year, his fewest tackles in a season was 116.
Fletcher signed a five-year, $10.75 million contract in April 2012, but the contract was structured for salary cap purposes to void following this season.
“There’s many different ways to be a leader, and you can learn that from a guy like [Fletcher],” Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III said. “He’s always more reserved. Obviously, you guys see him giving pregame speeches and stuff like that, but he’s a more reserved, rough on the edges, focused guy that comes to work every day ready to go, no matter what’s going on – no matter what’s going on outside. He comes in this building, shuts everything down and gets focused on football.”
Fletcher just smiled when asked if he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and demurred to the voters - though admitted there should be a healthy debate. Shanahan unequivocally said Fletcher should be in the Hall of Fame and teammates agreed.
“I don’t know what the qualifications would be when it comes to what he might need,” Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss said. “But when you play that long and all the tackles that he has had, and as far as the other accolades, you know, it’s Hall of Fame in my eyes.”