London Fletcher mulls retirement

ASHBURN, Va. -- London Fletcher wanted to see how his body felt last offseason before making his decision. This year, it'll be his mind that matters most.

Though it's been assumed that Fletcher won't play beyond this season, he says that's not the case. The Washington Redskins inside linebacker said he hasn't made up his mind if he wants to continue playing beyond this, his 16th season in the NFL. He signed a five-year deal two years ago that voided to two years, which will eventually make him a free agent after the season -- with a decision to make.

“I'll let the season take its course and decompress,” he said. “You don't want to make an emotional decision on how you feel during the season. When you win you feel a whole lot better about things than when you lose. That's how you have to take it. There are a lot of things that come to play when you're deciding whether you want to continue to play: production, performance. Can you play? Health. Do they want you to play?”

In 2012, Fletcher played most of the second half of the season with a badly sprained ankle that allowed him to only practice once a week. He needed elbow and ankle surgery after the season. Though he sprained his ankle last week, Fletcher practiced Thursday and is expected to play in his 253 consecutive game Sunday.

“This year I feel a whole lot better,” Fletcher said.

The coaches and players say Fletcher's value remains in his leadership and knowledge of the defense -- and opposing offenses. But Fletcher's numbers aren't the same. He's averaging 7.1 tackles per game; his previous low in Washington was 8 per game in 2007. Last season he averaged 8.7 tackles each game.

He trails fellow inside linebacker Perry Riley by six tackles for the team lead. Fletcher has led the Redskins in tackles every year since joining them in 2007.

Fletcher said he still gets excited for the weekly challenges of stopping running backs such as Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy, San Francisco's Frank Gore and, this week, Kansas City's Jamaal Charles.

“That's the thing that keeps me going as I watch film,” Fletcher said. “I won't sit here and tell you I love practice, I love meetings. That's not the case. I understand that's the part of the preparation and when I get on the field I get my juices flowing. But when I get a chance to dissect an opponent and the offense and you're looking at the scheme and you try to give yourself tips and you try to share those tips with your teammates .... That's what excites me and keeps me going.”

When players retire, they often point to the preparation it takes to sustain a career as a reason they stop playing.

“Last year when I decided I was going to come back and play I threw myself into my workouts and pushed myself beyond what you would think you'd be able to do,” he said. “I don't think that will be the deciding factor. It will be other things.”