- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher is determined to continue his playing career, which is why he underwent left ankle surgery Wednesday morning and will have elbow surgery later this month.

It’s good news for the Redskins, who depend on Fletcher’s knowledge, leadership and talent to anchor their 3-4 defensive front. His commitment to playing a 16th NFL season allows the team to attend to its needs in the secondary during free agency and the draft.

“Surgery went great…thanks for all the well wishes! Prep begins now for season 16! #Monster216 #HTTR,” Fletcher tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

Fletcher, who turns 38 in May, seriously contemplated retirement this offseason, his agent, Ben Dogra said. But Fletcher decided about 10 days ago to continue playing so he could be part of the next step in the Redskins‘ turnaround.

They won the NFC East division last season following four straight last-place finishes. Fletcher also proved he still can play at a high level.

His 240 consecutive games played are tied for the longest active streak in the NFL. His team-leading 188 tackles, according to coaches’ review, and five interceptions in 2012 helped him qualify for his fourth straight Pro Bowl.

London will continue to play football only if he can play at the standard he sets for himself,” Dogra said. “He wants to win. He’s excited. The reason he decided to have the surgeries is to make sure he’s better and more effective than last year.”

Foot specialist Robert Anderson performed Fletcher’s surgery Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C., where Anderson is based and where Fletcher has an offseason home.

Fletcher’s decision to continue his career clarifies Washington’s offseason outlook a bit with the new league year set to begin at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The Redskins entered this week about $3 million over the 2013 salary cap. They must be under it by the Tuesday deadline.

Fletcher is scheduled to account for $6.2 million against the cap. Now that he has decided to continue playing, the Redskins can consider his cap impact a certainty and make other moves accordingly.

Backup inside linebacker and Pro Bowl special teamer Lorenzo Alexander is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday afternoon. The Redskins hope to re-sign Alexander, but their need for him to provide inside linebacker depth diminished with Fletcher’s decision to return.

Alexander has said he prefers to remain with the Redskins and would re-sign as long as their offer is competitive with other teams’.

Washington drafted inside linebacker Keenan Robinson in the fourth round last April as part of the plan to fill the void left when Fletcher retires. Robinson debuted on defense in Week 6 but lasted only six games before suffering a season-ending right pectoral muscle tear.

Coach Mike Shanahan lauded Robinson’s intelligence, and in November he projected Robinson to eventually become an every-down linebacker. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett in late October praised Robinson’s pass defense and highlighted room for improvement in the running game.

Third-year inside linebacker Perry Riley started all 16 games alongside Fletcher last season. His 167 tackles were second on the team. However, Riley still is working to master positioning and playing his assignment.

Fletcher, then, is a steadying presence in the middle of the defense.

“You can’t match what he brings to the game experience-wise,” Alexander said last season. “There’s not too many guys who have played 15 years and call out defenses.”



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