ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher is one of the players to whom I like to make a point of talking when I go out to these team sites. I spoke with him Tuesday about the process he went through of waiting to get his new deal signed with the Redskins, and what it felt like for him to know how obsessively his fans and teammates wanted him back.
"It's better than the alternative," he said with a laugh. "Especially having played as long as I've played in this league. It feels good to be wanted and to really feel like I'm appreciated by the fans."
Fletcher is 37 years old and this will be his 15th NFL season and sixth with the Redskins. Washington reached the playoffs in 2007, his first year with the team, but the Redskins haven't had a winning season since then and they're 15-33 over the past three years. Which begs the question: Why did he want to come back?
"I like playing for Coach [Mike] Shanahan," Fletcher said. "I believe in him. I believe in his ability to turn things around. I like Mr. [Daniel] Snyder. He treats me well. The organization has treated me well. I'm excited about the some of the moves they made in the offseason, obviously what they did in free agency and then being in position to get a young quarterback that has some talent. The defense is a pretty good fit for me; I've had a lot of success in it. So really I saw a lot of promising things."
There was also the fact, of course, that the offers weren't pouring in from elsewhere. ("It was definitely a slow-moving market for the linebackers," he said.) But part of his motivation to return stems from a sense that he's put in so much work here and doesn't want to miss the chance to see it pay off.
"You put so much into it and you've gone through a lot of the losses," he said. "You don't want to leave and then all of a sudden the things kicks around and you're like, 'Shoot, I missed it.' So I wanted to return; it was just a matter of getting a deal done."
He is back, assuming his role as leader of the defense and locker-room exemplar. Yes, the Redskins did put rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III's locker next to Fletcher's. No, that's not a coincidence.
"He has a lot of talent. He does a lot of great things," Fletcher said of Griffin. "He's a rookie, so he has a lot to learn, too. But he works at it. He understands that part of it. I think he has the potential. The sky's the limit, really, for him. He's a smart kid. He works. He studies. They've got some good talent surrounding him. And he's not coming in with the mindset of, 'It's all on my shoulders.' He understands that we all have to do a job as well."