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Fletcher Is Most Important Off-season Pickup

The story goes that when London Fletcher was a child his nickname was "Bam." That's because the youngster would often break glass tables with a hammer.

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Now, many years later, the Redskins are hoping Fletcher will be able to help break up opposing offenses.

They're banking on the fact that Fletcher will be one of the keys--perhaps, even, the key--as they battle back from a No. 31 defensive ranking.

Head coach Joe Gibbs and assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams believe the 5-10, 245-pound Cleveland native will be a catalyst in an effort to get the Redskins' defense heading back up the charts to the 2004-05 levels.

Gibbs himself has had just three losing seasons during his 15-year, Hall of Fame coaching career. Those came in 1988 (7-9), 2004 (6-10) and last year (5-11). In 1989 and 2005, the Redskins responded with 10-6 finishes, and the 2005 club was a post-season participant.

If the Redskins are to bounce back in 2007, Fletcher will have to be a big part of it. He's a veteran who will be charged with getting all of his teammates into position, instructing them with the proper calls and making sure they execute with a passion.

Fred Smoot returns at cornerback and first-round pick LaRon Landry, the safety out of LSU, are solid acquisitions.

But by the nature of his position, and judging by his track record as a playmaker and a leader, Fletcher is likely to be the most important off-season addition for the club--and for a defense that was justifiably proud of its 2004-05 achievements.

Even though he's in double digits in terms of NFL service, Fletcher declares that he has a lot left to his career.

It began some years ago when Fletcher attended the prestigious Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School in Cleveland and earned letters in football and basketball. He played on two state championship basketball teams.

While attending Ohio's John Carroll University, Fletcher played both basketball and football. As a senior, he had 202 tackles (a school record) and was named the Division III National Linebacker of the Year.

Fletcher began his professional career with the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent. He spent four seasons with the Rams before joining the Buffalo Bills in 2002. Further, he was a starting linebacker for the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, in which the Rams defeated the Titans 23-16.

The 5-10, 245-pound Fletcher has played in every regular-season game over the last nine seasons (144 games), collecting 1,091 total tackles, 27.5 sacks, and 11 interceptions.

In 2007, the plan is for the new middle linebacker to call Gregg Williams' defensive signals and continue to be an impact player once the ball is snapped.

"The coaches have told me exactly what they want," Fletcher said. "They want a guy who can come into this defense and become a leader. They want a guy who can work with 10 other guys, exude confidence and make a call in the huddle."

Last year with the 7-9 Bills, Fletcher played in all 16 games at middle linebacker, recording team highs with 157 tackles and four interceptions.

He even got into the end zone twice, with a fumble return against New England in Week 1 and interception scamper versus Green Bay in Week 9.

About half of the Redskins' staff is familiar with Fletcher, and Williams basically led the recruiting effort to bring Fletcher to his third NFL team.

"With London," said Gibbs, "there's no guessing game. He'll run sideline-to-side line for you, and from a leadership point, he's the kind of player you want."

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