London Fletcher talks about his secret concussion
London Fletcher was beset by a number of ailments last season, ranging from a severely sprained ankle to a pulled hamstring.
On Thursday, though, the Redskins’ linebacker confirmed an injury the public had not been previously aware of: the 38-year-old also suffered a concussion in the preseason a year ago and missed one exhibition game because of it. Fletcher also acknowledged that his inconsistent performances in the first half of the regular season was due, at least in part, to balance issues connected to the concussion.
Fletcher first acknowledged the concussion in a Sports Illustrated article.
Fletcher told reporters at Redskins Park on Thursday that he’s had his bell rung a number of times during his football career. But only two stand out to the inside linebacker as notable – one he suffered at John Carroll University and the one he suffered last preseason.
Fletcher was injured in the exhibition opener against the Bills and was held out of the next game in Chicago. Neither the team nor Fletcher publicly acknowledged that he was suffering from a concussion. NFL protocol does not require teams to publicize injuries suffered in the preseason.
“It was the second to last play before I was coming out of the game,” Fletcher said. “Got hit, tight end route down the seem, safety was coming over to make a play. He hit me and then my head hit the ground. So I don’t know if it was from the hit, from [safety Madieu Williams] or from the ground. Got a little dizzy. I’ve experience that in games before. Kind of got my bearings back together, played a couple more plays. [The starters] were coming out the game anyway, so that was it. Once I got to the sideline, I got a little bit of blurred vision. So I told the doctors about it and they took me in for evaluation. It was close to halftime anyway. They took me in for an evaluation, felt like I needed further evaluation.”
Fletcher added: “So the next day, or a day later, we did the baseline test again. My numbers weren’t as normal as they should have so we continued to do more evaluation, more tests. It was determined that I had a mild concussion. I didn’t play the following week against Chicago. I passed my baseline test the following week going [into the game] against Indianapolis. My baseline numbers were actually better than when I took it in previous years. All that stuff was fairly good. I ended up playing in the game and didn’t have any issues.”
Fletcher’s head may have been clear, but he wasn’t back to himself. He was still battling occasional balance problems. But he didn't inform the team about the issues -- at least not immediately.
“So that was it as far as the concussion; I was past that,” Fletcher said. “I had some lingering – not necessarily lingering stuff – but you know, little balance stuff. When you hear balance, that’s the wrong word to use …it wasn’t a situation where I was all wobbly or anything like that. Every now and then, I would have a little sway. I would notice it [but] nobody else would notice it. I never told the team about that. It wasn’t until later in the year when we played the Giants, I had a hamstring injury, so I figured I might as well get this [balance] stuff looked as well.”
Fletcher did not miss a game in 2012, his 15th in the NFL. In fact, he’s played in 240 consecutive regular season games, currently tied for the lead among active players. (If Fletcher plays against the Eagles, as expected, he inherit the milestone from Ronde Barber, who has retired.)
The balance issues continued to bother Fletcher until late October.
“That’s when I was sent for further tests,” he said. “I saw so many specialists. We figured out what was the issue. I didn’t have a concussion; I was past that. Actually it was something with my neck. I just had a little irritation. Once I told them what I was experiencing, it cleared up pretty much in a coupe of days. I wish I had told them a little bit sooner.”
Asked why he didn’t acknowledge the concussion publicly last season, Fletcher said he didn’t want to put himself at a competitive disadvantage.
“I’m an old school player,” he said. “I’m not going to tell an opponent about anything I got going on. You play football, you have things that bother you all the time. If go around telling you all everything that’s bothering me, you’d be writing a story every day. I don’t believe in giving the opponent any prior knowledge of the situation. I don’t have to tell you all what’s going on with me, so I didn’t tell you all.”
Asked how frequent he gets his “bell rung” over the course of a football game, Fletcher said it can happen "a couple" of times.
“It’s football, man,” Fletcher said. “I play inside linebacker, and I like to play it physical. I don’t know, it can happen a couple of times a game. I wouldn’t classify them as concussions. They’re just, like I said, bell ringing. You’ll see stars for a second and then you’re back to normal after two, three seconds or whatever the case may be. It’s just the way the game is.”
Fletcher now says he regrets not telling the team about his balance issues sooner.
“Sometimes players go running to the training room too much,” he said. “You get a hangnail, you go run to the trainer. You get a sprained finger, you go run to the trainer. I’m of the mentality, if you can go out and play, you don’t need to run to the training room about everything little thing that’s going on with you. Looking back, I should have told the team about [the balance issues] a lot sooner because it was something that was taken care of immediately. That’s the only regret I really have about the situation.”
Fletcher also said his second half turnaround was the result of getting treatment for the neck injury.
“Prior to the diagnosis, I was still in my mind like, ‘Man, what’s going on with me?” Fletcher said. “You’re concerned about your future. I’m seeing all these former players and the deals they’ve got going on. So you’re wondering like, ‘What’s going on? Am I doing further damage to myself?’ So you’re not excited about throwing your neck up in there, making tackles and things like that, having that little irritation in there. Once I got that situation taken care of, I was also able to be relaxed from a mental standpoint. My play down the stretch, the last seven or eight ballgames, once I got that taken care of, I played some really, really good football.”