- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2008

London Fletcher is the only Washington Redskins player whom Gregg Williams recruited twice.

Fletcher also was one of the most ardent campaigners for Williams to become the coach when Joe Gibbs retired in January. But Redskins owner Daniel Snyder dismissed the team’s assistant head coach-defense.

No matter Fletcher’s feelings for his boss in Buffalo and Washington, the middle linebacker will take a business-like approach to the reunion in Thursday’s preseason finale when Williams, now Jacksonville’s defensive coordinator, visits Landover with the Jaguars.

“I’ve competed, so to speak, against my other coaches before,” said Fletcher, whom Williams targeted in free agency in March 2007. “[Chicago coach] Lovie Smith was my defensive coordinator in St. Louis, and we played the Bears last year. I was really close to Dick Vermeil in St. Louis, and we played the Chiefs when I was with the Bills. Gregg knows what I can do. I don’t have to prove myself to him. It’s the Jaguars against the Redskins in a preseason game. It’s not London Fletcher against Gregg Williams.”

Like many in the Redskins’ organization, Fletcher hasn’t talked to Williams in some time, although the coach texted him upon the birth of his second child this summer.

Greg Blache, the defensive line coach whom the team promoted to replace Williams in January, sort of bristled when he said he hadn’t talked to his old boss since they parted ways.

Even Fletcher said Williams’ formidable defenses of 2004, 2005 and 2007 had almost as many contributors as Williams had defensive packages.

“I’m very thankful and grateful to Gregg for having faith in my abilities not only as a player but as a person, as the guy that he had to have, that we had to have, to run the defense,” Fletcher said. “But I don’t look at it like I’m carrying on Gregg’s legacy here. He started some good things around here with the defense, but it was a joint effort with the other coaches that still remain. Gregg laid a great foundation. Nobody takes away from that. Now we continue to create our own legacy.”

While Williams declined to be interviewed, Fletcher fulfilled his mentor’s faith last season. He had a team-high 128 tackles and three interceptions while helping the defense improve from 31st in 2006 to eighth.

And yet Fletcher was voted a third alternate to the Pro Bowl. Despite leading his team in tackles in each of his nine years as a starter, Fletcher has never earned a Pro Bowl selection.

“I’ve experienced too many seasons where I felt overlooked, where guys have gone who weren’t more deserving than me,” Fletcher said. “There’s nothing I can do about that. I’m beyond playing with a chip on my shoulder. I play to be the best that I can be.”

If the rest of the league doesn’t appreciate Fletcher, the Redskins do.

“London not only knows his job, he knows what everybody else is supposed to do to,” strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington said. “If you’ve got a question when the bullets are flying, so to speak, he’s like almost like a cheat sheet, a human Cliff’s Notes.”

New coach Jim Zorn raved about Fletcher in a recent practice.

“All of a sudden London intercepts the ball, and he takes it as hard as he would in a game,” Zorn said. “He was flying. He was not smiling. He read the play. He cut in front of the receiver. He intercepted the ball. And when he ran, he was serious. If you had a tight shot on him, you’d think he was in the very first game against the Giants.”

That’s from a 33-year-old who hasn’t missed a game during his 10 seasons.

“I’m 33. There’s no way around that,” Fletcher said. “But I don’t feel any different than I did at 26. I feel great. People can’t say that 23-year-olds are running around better than me or playing better than me.

“I know how to take care of myself. I know how to get ready for a season. I know how to get ready for a game. I feel like I have a lot of high quality football left in me. I continue to challenge myself to try to get better. There are so many things I can do better than I did last year.”

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