At first it just seemed like a frustrated slip of the tongue when Washington's veteran ILB London Fletcher saluted the Eagles on Wednesday as "the best team in the NFC East", and then proceeded to downgrade his own team as "the bottom"... I told myself to ignore the remark. Just an old warrior letting off some steam...
But then as the hours and days rolled on, I subconsciously surrendered to the thoughts Fletcher had planted in my brain.
The guy is either the most candid player in the league, or he is the shrewdest of the passive-aggressive manipulators of the inside-the-lines mind games today.
His remark would have been ignored had it come from a disgruntled rookie who was getting no playing time with a 3-6 team which has been shot down from a 6-3 expectation of a record at this time in the 2013 season.
But this is London Fletcher speaking.
Number 59 has been in the league for a while...uh, try 16 years on for size... so anything he says to the press regarding an upcoming divisional rivalry is not going to be of the impulsive nature. He wants to get into the Eagles' collective head...try to puff them up a little...yet at the same time earning credibility points, because Fletcher is veteran enough to know that the Redskins MUST win this upcoming game at the Linc to have any realistic shot at coming back from a horrible start to prevail in their division.
In case you missed it, here is Eliot Shorr-Parks' notes on exactly what Fletcher had to say:
Speaking to Philadelphia reporters on Wednesday, Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was brutally honest about how he views the NFC East this season.
"The great thing about this year is that the NFC East is so terrible," said Fletcher.
The down year in the division has allowed all of the teams to remain competitive, even though the Redskins started 0-3.
"You look at it and we're in Week (11), and our leader is 5-5," Fletcher said. "So even at 3-6, we're conceivably still in this thing."
Although his view on the division makes it hard to take it as a compliment, Fletcher did say that the Eagles are probably the best team in the division right now. "The Eagles are playing really good football right now," Fletcher said. "If you look at it, they are probably the top team in our division right now."
After the Eagles, Fletcher put the New York Giants second because they have won three games in a row, then the Dallas Cowboys. "The Cowboys struggled the other night against the Saints," Fletcher said.
Leaving only one team left for last place in a terrible division -- his team. "You would probably have to go Eagles, Cowboys, Giants and then us," Fletcher said with a laugh.
It might be a shot at motivating his team, or just his honest opinion, but either way it certainly was some brutal honesty from the Redskins' linebacker. And certainly some bulletin-board material -- for his own team.
The more I think about it, Fletcher's words are wisely designed to influence whatever let-up may exist in the Eagles' young minds that they may have this game in the bag.
It's classic passive-aggressive warfare technique. Rationally speaking, it should have no effect--- but when opposing players' ego's are involved, there is no rational antidote. Guys (like me) hear those words and almost hypnotically tend to relax a little.
Fletcher is at or darn close near the end of his incredibly lengthy playing career. What does he have to lose at 3-6 by blowing some psychological smoke into the Eagles' clubhouse? This guy is at a point where he wants to go out a winner, and his current season is at a tipping point.
London Fletcher is a competitive expert, a grandmaster artist who has painted a masterpiece of what a great career based upon longevity in the NFL should look like. The only thing missing is a Ring with the Redskins (he has one from his time with the St. Louis Rams back when Kurt Warner was slinging it).
At 5-9 and 248, after playing for John Carroll College, and undrafted in 1998, he was signed by the St. Louis Rams as a rookie free agent, where he spent four seasons. In 2002, he was signed to the Buffalo Bills roster, where he stayed for five seasons.
Fletcher is well known for never missing a game in his career, playing in over 240 consecutive games over 16 seasons and is ranked first among active iron men in this regard. Among active players with consecutive starts, he is also currently ranked first with over 200 starts.
He was one of the two rookie free agents to make Rams’ opening day roster, playing in all 16 regular season games. Fletcher earned the Rams Rookie of the Year Award.
In 1999, Fletcher led the Rams in tackles after winning the starting middle linebacker position during training camp. His 138 tackles for the season were the most by a Ram since Roman Phifer collected 149 in the 1995 season. He also started at linebacker for the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, in which the Rams defeated the Titans 23-16. He also was named to the All-Madden team and as a second alternate to the Pro bowl for the first time.
In 2000 he established season and career highs in sacks (5.5), interceptions (4) and quarterback pressures (9), along with a forced fumble, and was again an alternate to the Pro Bowl. In 2001 the Rams made it to Super Bowl XXXVI but were defeated by the Patriots 20–17, after kicker Adam Vinatieri made a game-winning 48-yard field goal as time expired.
Fletcher signed with the Buffalo Bills as an unrestricted free agent on March 7, 2002. In the 2002 season, his first season with the Bills, Fletcher set a career high for himself as well as a franchise record with 209 tackles, which broke the old mark of 206 set by Chris Spielman in 1996. He also was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate eight times though he never was actually a Pro Bowler as a Bill (even though in 2002 he was a second alternate to the game). From 2002 on, Fletcher started all 16 regular season games each year for the Bills until his last season in 2006, when he recorded a team-high 157 tackles, including nine for a loss, set a career high with 14 deflections, and tied a career high with four interceptions. On September 10, in the first regular season game, Fletcher scored his first career touchdown after recovering a fumble by the Patriots' Tom Brady and returning it five yards for a touchdown only 12 seconds into the game.Fletcher was named a 2007 Pro Bowl alternate in his last season as a Bill.
On March 2, 2007, Fletcher signed with the Washington Redskins to a five-year, $25 million contract. He immediately became the team's starting middle linebacker. With his first season on the team, he was named co-winner of the B.J. Blanchard Award, an honor given annually to a Redskins player who best helps the local media do their jobs, along with quarterback Jason Campbell. Fletcher continued his Pro Bowl-caliber run with the Redskins in 2008.
He has been a defensive co-captain for the team since the 2008 season. In 2008, the Redskins nominated Fletcher as their Walter Payton Man of the Year Award representative.
Fletcher was named to the NFC squad in the 2010 Pro Bowl after Jonathan Vilma's New Orleans Saints qualified for Super Bowl XLIV, his first Pro Bowl selection in his career.
After the Redskins' switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme, Fletcher converted from the middle linebacker position to the left inside linebacker for the 2010 season. He made the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive time in 2010, where he had an interception which set up a touchdown for the NFC.
Despite not making the 2012 Pro Bowl starting roster, Fletcher led the entire league in tackles with 166 tackles by the end of the 2011 season. He started all 16 games of the 2011 season and recorded 166 combined tackles, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions, and eight pass breakups. Fletcher, however, did make it as alternate for the 2012 Pro Bowl along with teammates, Brian Orakpo and Lorenzo Alexander. On January 9, 2012, Fletcher was added to the NFC 2012 Pro Bowl roster after Brian Urlacher confirmed that he would not be participating. On January 11, 2012, it was announced that Fletcher won the Bart Starr Award. He was also named the Redskins' 2011 Defensive Player of the Year.
On April 13, 2012, Fletcher was re-signed by the Redskins to a two-year contract worth $10.75 million with $5.25 million guaranteed. He was given the 87th ranking in the NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2012 list.He finished the season with 139 tackles, three sacks, and a career-high five interceptions.
There was doubt over whether Fletcher would return for the 2013 season until it was announced that he had surgery on his left ankle and was also scheduled for elbow surgery to prepare for another season with the Redskins on March 6, 2013. And on November 7, Fletcher started his 208th consecutive game, tying the league's all-time record of most starts by a linebacker last held by retired linebacker Derrick Brooks.
If all of this sounds like a Philadelphia fan's farewell tour event to honor London Fletcher's incredible career, well, it kinda is...
But it is also a form of reverse psychology. Back atcha, London !!