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London Fletcher Undergoes Surgery On Left Ankle

The 38-year-old linebacker finished out last season with a high left ankle sprain, and though he remains focused on a return, he’ll evaluate his ability to play after his recovery.

BY ZAC BOYER

London Fletcher underwent surgery Wednesday morning to address a high left ankle sprain, which the linebacker played with for six weeks of the regular season, according to a person with knowledge of Fletcher’s health.

Fletcher

Fletcher, 38, injured the ankle midway through Washington’s victory over Philadelphia on Nov. 18, which caused him to miss the rest of the game and part of the victory at Dallas four days later on Thanksgiving. He then played every snap in the Redskins’ final four regular season games and in their NFC wild card playoff game against Seattle.

Having the surgery will be the next step in the linebacker determining whether he’ll be healthy enough to play for the Redskins next season, that person said. Fletcher, 38, has maintained that he hasn’t yet decided whether or not he’ll return to the field, but has said multiple times over the past month that his offseason evaluation is something he’s done for the past several years.

Such a procedure could require up to two months of recovery, which could put Fletcher’s availability for the start of voluntary workouts in mid-April in jeopardy.

A high ankle sprain is typically more damaging than a lower ankle sprain, which directly affects ligaments around the ankle. In a high ankle sprain, ligaments that connect the tibia and fibula are either stretched or torn. Redskins left tackle Trent Williams sustained a high ankle sprain in 2011 and missed two games with the injury.

CBS Washington first reported news of Fletcher’s surgery on its web site Wednesday morning and noted that Fletcher is expecting to play next season. The linebacker, who could not be reached for comment, told the web site he is also planning on undergoing a procedure on one of his elbows later this month.

Fletcher signed a five-year, $10.75 million contract with the Redskins last April, but that deal contains a clause that will void it after this coming season. He is scheduled to count for $6.2 million against the salary cap in 2013 – a problem, given that Washington will be assessed a n $18 million penalty for the second consecutive season and is currently more than $3 million over the cap.

Despite his age, Fletcher has been one of the league’s most consistent linebackers in recent seasons. He led all players with 166 tackles a year ago and had 139 tackles, three sacks and a career-high five interceptions in 2012, which earned him a spot in his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl.

The injuries, however, have begun to catch up with him. In addition to the ankle injury, which allowed him to practice roughly once a week, he also strained a hamstring in a road game against the New York Giants on Oct. 21 and battled what he and head coach Mike Shanahan termed “balance issues” during training camp and in the early portion of the season.

Still, Fletcher pushed his consecutive games-played streak to 240 at the end of the season, which is currently the longest in the NFL. He has not missed a game since debuting with St. Louis in 1998.

“You know, besides winning the Super Bowl with the Rams, that was the most fun I’ve had playing football, but you have to let some time get away, let my body heal up a little bit more,” Fletcher said on Jan. 17 during an in-studio appearance on ESPN’s “NFL Live.” “It’s an emotional drain. It’s a physical drain that you have. Fifteen years, 240 consecutive games – that’s a lot of football, but I’m happy to be able to still play at a high level. I love this football team. I love playing for Shanahan, so I’ll take my time deciding and I’ll make the right decision.”

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