LANDOVER, Md. – It’s not the sendoff London Fletcher or anyone else on the Washington Redskins wanted or envisioned. It could have been. It could have ended with a defensive stand and Fletcher leading the charge off the field.
Instead, it ended with another brutal loss for Washington and the final home game for the 16-year veteran. Fletcher announced his retirement on Wednesday, saying he was 99 percent sure he was done. That 1 percent did not seem to be much in play Sunday as Fletcher soaked in all of the atmosphere, from the pregame introductions to taking his time walking off the field, surrounded by cameras as he headed over to some fans in the stands.
His three young kids played near his locker long after most of the place had emptied.
“Man, I thought we had it,” Fletcher said. “What better way would there have been for me personally to end my career [than] with a defensive stand on the goal line?”
It was a different final drive for Fletcher, who exited the game when the Redskins went to six defensive backs. He was back in for the final series of plays, which resulted in a touchdown.
Thus ended an emotional week for Fletcher.
“As much as I tried to make this a normal game and week, it wasn’t,” Fletcher said. “I really had to curb my emotions throughout the week. At the end the reception that I got … not only today but just throughout the week as I’ve seen people all over the DMV area. People bought me lunch and all kinds of stuff.”
But his teammates couldn’t get him a win.
“When you have a guy like London that’s played to win and showed you how to be a pro,” Redskins receiver Santana Moss said, “you want to go out and give it your all. We knew what we had at stake this far in the season and that was nothing. So why not go out there and put our hearts on the line for a guy who has showed us in so many ways how to be a good professional. … Everybody went out and left everything on the field. We still came up short.”
Fletcher finished with six tackles. His 16-year career will come to an end next week, so the players have one more shot to send him out with a win. They just happened to want this one at home against Dallas a little bit more.
“You always want to send a guy like London out with a win,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “Disappointed we couldn’t get it done.”
Fletcher gets one more week to prepare as an NFL player, then he’ll leave for the next phase of his career, perhaps as a broadcaster. And he’ll get plenty of chances to answer how an undrafted player from Division III John Carroll University ended up never missing a game in 16 seasons.
“I came into the league as a long shot, “ he said. “Based on God’s plan, I was a sure shot. People didn’t know what was inside of me.”