ASHBURN, Va. -- The offseason retirements of Baltimore's Ray Lewis and Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber left Redskins inside linebacker London Fletcher, a Pro Bowl participant four years running, as the NFL's grand old man.
But that's not a title he wears so willingly because he much prefers looking ahead instead of back.
"I take my hat off to 'em; those guys are enjoying the retired life, but I'm still enjoying playing the game," said Fletcher, who turned 38 in May.
"I've got more to give to this team, more to accomplish. I'm still trying to get better, still working on things, still trying to challenge myself to see how I can play at an even higher level. It takes a lot of preparation to be out there week-in and week-out and not just be out there, but be out there and play well.
"First and foremost, I've been blessed with good health. There's a lot of great players, who barring injuries, would've had long careers. I take my job very seriously and I really focus on not letting my teammates down."
Fletcher had the first surgeries of his career -- on an ankle and an elbow -- in March and coach Mike Shanahan told him that he could skip OTAs like so many of his rehabbing teammates. Fat chance of that.
"I was really chomping at the bit to be able to get back into the weight room, get back on the field, do what I've always done," he said. "Once I was physically cleared, it was easy for me to get back out here. Coach said I didn't have to, but this is what I do."
So well that he led the Redskins in interceptions last season with a career-high five and, as always, led them in tackles.
"Fletch is a leader, a hard worker," said quarterback Robert Griffin III, whom Shanahan gave the locker next to Fletcher's. "The guys love him. He doesn't have to be out here practicing, but even at his age and the amount of games that he has put up in a row, he still wants to be out here and working at it so that he can get better."
Whether Fletcher, the NFL's top tackler during his 14 years as a starter with St. Louis, Buffalo and Washington, can improve at this stage of his career is highly questionable, but as Shanahan said, "He sets the tempo. He's our natural leader. He leads by example. I've never been around anyone quite like him, and hopefully he can keep on doing what he has done."
Pretty impressive for a squatty guy from a Division III school (John Carroll University) who started college on a basketball scholarship and made the Rams as a rookie free agent in 1998.