ASHBURN, Va. -- He appreciates him as a coach. He appreciates what he's done as a former linebacker.
Jim Haslett coached London Fletcher for four seasons; he's admired him a lot longer. With Fletcher announcing Wednesday that he's 99 percent likely to retire, Haslett used Thursday to praise him.
"It's been a great pleasure to coach the guy, probably one of the best I've ever been around, probably a Hall of Famer," Haslett said. "You can't ask any more -- he's a great person, great family man, he's a great leader on your football team, an unbelievable skill set."
Haslett said they didn't discuss whether Fletcher would retire, but that he had a feeling it was coming. At 38, Fletcher was no longer as productive. But he hadn't lost his passion for the game. And that's something Haslett enjoyed witnessing.
"He's a guy that you love talking to football-wise because you could talk to him and five minutes later he takes the stuff on the field," Haslett said, "so it's easy communication. It's like talking to another coach ... .I just love the way he prepares and the way he takes coaching and he's one of the best ever. It's amazing."
Haslett said the ex-linebacker in him can't fathom how Fletcher was able to play 254 consecutive games entering Sunday's game against Dallas. He first started watching Fletcher closely when he coached in New Orleans and Fletcher played for St. Louis.
"I've seen a guy get nicked up, beat up, have a high ankle sprain, and go out and play, not practice all week, and play at a high level. I think it's incredible what he's done," Haslett said.
But he knows why he's played at a high level: preparation. It's enabled Fletcher to diagnose plays before the ball is snapped. Other players do that as well. But Haslett said it's different with Fletcher.
"I've been around guys that played with guys like that, it's just -- even today he said, 'Watch the draw! Watch the counter!' I mean, he kind of knew exactly out of those three formations you were going to get these three plays," Haslett said, "so like I said, his preparation is better than anybody I've been around."