WASHINGTON // Those examining the career statistics compiled by London Fletcher might be interested to examine the column under the letter "G".
Nothing but 16s for "Games" played. On and on and on.
Through four years with the St Louis Rams. Five with the Buffalo Bills. Six with the Washington Redskins.
It has become routine to say that Fletcher has never missed a game in his NFL career. It is routine to hear him say that he is been "blessed" with "good genes". It is routine to hear him insist that he only thinks about his playing streak when reporters bring it up.
Every year that passes, the routine becomes more remarkable.
Robert Griffin III has missed a game, and he has played only one season. Keenan Robinson, the 2012 draft pick groomed as a possible successor to Fletcher, has already missed five games and had two shoulder injuries. He might not play at all this season.
Fletcher's streak is now at 240, the longest among active players in the NFL. He has been credited with 1,321 tackles and 608 assists.
That translates into nearly 2,000 confrontations with running backs, tight ends and quarterbacks — and not a single impact that caused him to miss the next game. "London has been amazing," Griffin said.
Fletcher is 38, back for another year as captain of the Redskins defence as an inside linebacker. It was not a sure thing that he would make it back this time. There were times last year when he could not practice because of injuries. Then he kept silent for a while after the end of the season and waited until he had ankle and elbow surgeries to proclaim that, no, he never seriously considered retirement.
"It's just something where you get up every day and go to work and don't think about it," Fletcher said. "It's pretty much how I go about my business. I get up every day, come to work and don't think about the durability part until somebody brings it up. I feel good. I try to do a lot of different things to keep myself feeling good. The training staff does a great job of working with me, and the coaches do a great job of monitoring my reps and things like that. So I don't think about it a whole lot."
Fletcher is two-plus seasons away from the record for consecutive games played by a defensive player, Jim Marshall's 282-game run from 1960 to 1979. He is in the last year of his latest contract, but as long as he keeps playing well, the Redskins will want him back.
"Really, in the National Football League, you are always on the last year of your contract," Fletcher said. "This is just the nature of the business. I have scratched and clawed my whole career. I came in as an undrafted free agent, so I was on the last year of my contract 16 years ago … It's not something I spend a lot of time with. I'm focused on this season and that's pretty much it."
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