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Fletcher has Browns' attention, respect

Posted Dec 15, 2012

Veteran linebacker London Fletcher has been a mainstay in the Redskins’ defense since the 2007 season.

When the Cleveland Browns players and coaches began scouting the Washington Redskins for Sunday’s game, one player stood out above the rest on defense: 15-year veteran inside linebacker and Cleveland native, London Fletcher.

The Villa Angela-St. Joseph graduate and John Carroll University product has been the engine for Washington’s defense since joining the team in 2007 following stints with the St. Louis Rams (1998-2001) and Buffalo Bills (2002-06).

“It all starts with London Fletcher in the middle,” Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “He’s a veteran guy that has been in the league for a long time. (He’s an) extremely smart, great leader.”

Browns wide receiver Joshua Cribbs added, “London Fletcher, being the leader of that defense, I’m very well aware of him. He should’ve been in the Pro Bowl several years, has been an alternate several years, finally got in a couple years. He’s been the heart and soul of that defense, leading the team in tackles for years. That’s going to be a force to be reckoned with right there.”

Fletcher leads the Redskins with 150 total tackles, and has one sack, three forced fumbles, and three interceptions this season. His 87 solo stops and 63 assists also lead the Redskins’ defense. He has defended 10 passes and registered four quarterback pressures.

Fletcher’s three interceptions are one shy of his career best and account for 20 percent of the team’s total this year.

“He’s one of those guys that you’ve got to know where he’s at on the field,” running back Trent Richardson said. “He’s still doing his thing and I don’t speak that about too many guys that you’ve got to know where he’s at on the field. He’s one of those types of guys. He’s still moving well and he’s still hitting guys like he’s 23, 24. He’s the type of player that’s been around for a long time. He knows your every move. Usually, if you’re a complete running back, he’ll study more film and learn more about you.”

Fletcher has been named the Redskins’ Defensive Most Valuable Player four times since 2007 and earned a spot on Peter King’s All-Decade Team after registering more tackles than any other player in the 2000s. The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker has played in 237 consecutive games, a streak currently tied for first in the NFL. His 196 straight starts rank second behind Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber and are 128 more than the next highest total among linebackers.

“He’s amazing, isn’t he?” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “I think he’s a pro. When you look around the league, every roster has those guys that just keep going and find a way to keep doing it. He’s obviously got a lot great stuff at his core because he’s been there for a very long time, and of course, St. Louis and Buffalo. I admire him for a lot of reasons. Believe it or not, he’s kind of flown under the radar as a middle linebacker in this league, but I’ve played against him enough to know that’s not the case.”

Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron coached Fletcher during his first season as Buffalo Bills head coach in 2006. Under Jauron and his staff, Fletcher registered 146 total tackles, 104 solo stops and two sacks.

That season, he also matched a career high with four interceptions, one of which he returned 17 yards for his first NFL touchdown.

“The first thing is London,” Jauron said in response to what makes Fletcher so effective. “He’s worked extremely hard through his whole career. He’s very professional and very directed. There was nothing that was going to stop him from succeeding in the brief time that I spent with him. It was a pleasure to be around him.

“He loves to play the game. I think it’s real clear when you see him perform. He really enjoys competing on the field, and he’s determined. He’s incredibly determined. He’s got gifts that he’s developed. He’s worked awfully hard on them. You have to have some physical gifts to play this game and he has them, but he has all the other characteristics and intangibles that make great players.”

The Redskins have surrendered only 1,284 rushing yards through 13 games, a figure that ranks in the top 10 in the NFL.

“(It’s because of) London,” Richardson said. “He makes up a big bunch of their defense. For him, you’ve got to try to run right at him, plug him up as much as you can. Hopefully, we get what they give us and we’re going to try to score and put up yards.”

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