Is that the face of someone playing a meaningless exhibition game?
Despite everything that differentiates the Pro Bowl from true NFL football, there was a distinctly familiar feeling about last night’s ceremonial contest.
The temperature (80 degrees), location (Honolulu, Hawaii), jerseys, fans and protocol may have been very different, but Redskins No. 59 was the same constant force that he’s been for the last 15 years.
To no one’s surprise, the man that led the NFL in tackles this season also led his NFC teammates in tackles (5.5), despite not starting the game on defense.
Instead, Fletcher embraced his early role on special teams, making a few key special teams tackles:
Once subbed into the game on defense, Fletcher maintained his hard-hat approach, regardless of the lackadaisical attitude of many in the game. Even while the two offenses combined for 1,142 yards and exactly 100 points, Fletcher played the type of defense that fans have come to expect from the captain and patriarch.
On one goal line stand, he hit the AFC ball-carrier–Ravens tough man Vonte Leach–hard, corralling him just short of the goal line. In the spirit of competitive football, Leach got up and congratulated Fletcher for the hit:
In the end, the NFC squad lost to the AFC 59-41, but the Redskins were represented proudly. One special Redskins fan–Navy officer Brian Laliberty–even suggested the Fletcher could get involved with the scoring-fest, if he could convince the coaches to put him in on offense:
This was just one of several interactions that Fletcher had with fans during the game via Twitter, as the NFL allowed players to tweet on the sidelines. He even offered his autographed jersey to anyone that coule accurately predict the final score and MVP by the third quarter:
In response, he got some good guesses, including a former Redskins teammate threw in his cents for free:
In the end, Fletcher got the credit he deserved from fans, without the accolades. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be with him?
I guess it’s fitting that the man who couldn’t get voted to the Pro Bowl (he came as an injury replacement for Brian Urlacher) and couldn’t start the game (behind Patrick Willis), walks away with the tackle title and no consideration for Pro Bowl MVP.
Fletcher personifies dedication, preparation and production–the rare combination that every teams wants. Even in the twilight of his career, he continues to dazzle and amaze, and we’re lucky to have him in Washington.