This year, Redskins training camp has been overtaken by talk of Robert Griffin III’s knee. Which has prompted questions regarding the wisdom of a team talking about injuries, especially in the preseason when there’s no obligation to say anything.
Last year, the Redskins adhered to that approach, as it related to linebacker London Fletcher.
On Thursday, Fletcher explained to reporters that he suffered a concussion during the 2012 preseason, via Tarik El-Bashir of CSNWashington.com. Fletcher told the team about it, he eventually passed the concussion protocol, and he returned to action with no one knowing about his head injury.
It’s a legitimate approach in the preseason. No team has an obligation under league rules to say anything about player injuries until the days preceding the regular-season opener.
After Fletcher returned, he struggled from time to time with balance issues. He now claims that the balance issues had no relation to the concussion. He nevertheless admits that he concealed the balance problems from the team.
“Every now and then, I would have a little sway,” Fletcher said. ”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.”
Ultimately, Fletcher didn’t miss a game, extending his consecutive regular-season streak to 240. He says the balance problem ultimately was attributed to a neck injury. Fletcher says his performance was affected by worries regarding the condition.
“You’re concerned about your future,” Fletcher said. ”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 ball games, once I got that taken care of, I played some really, really good football.”
Regardless of whether the balance issues came from a concussion or from a neck injury, it’s clear that Fletcher has played with concussions.
“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.”
One thing we’ve all learned in recent years is that a “bell ringing” is a concussion. Fletcher’s comments reconfirm that players, who now clearly know the risks, are still wired to accept those risks and play.
Fletcher’s ability to stay on the field despite concussions also highlights one of the new strategies in which some players may engage. Two years ago, Fletcher signaled to the Eagles sideline for trainers when it appeared that Mike Vick had suffered a concussion, in an obvious effort to get Vick removed from the game.
(Maybe Vick simply got his bell rung. Or dirt on his face.)
Fletcher’s admission demonstrates that, despite recent advances in concussion awareness, plenty of players won’t be inclined to say or do anything that will cause them to be removed from action, whether the problem is a brain injury, a neck injury causing balance issues, or any other condition. Including dirt on the face.