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London Fletcher Explains Defenders' Plight

Posted Nov 1, 2013

As the NFL has made necessary rule changes to increase player safety, it is the NFL defender who has had to make the biggest adjustments, according to Washington Redskins LB London Fletcher

Since Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher arrived in the NFL in 1998, he has made myriad changes to his playing style in order to remain within the boundaries of the NFL's legal hitting definition.

It's not that he doesn't understand the impetus for the rule changes, because Fletcher is an advocate for player safety.

But at the same time, he hears the frustrations of his brothers on defense that find themselves one hit away from fine and suspension.

"We’re judged for making plays as defenders as far as keeping our jobs we’ve got to make plays," he said. "This is football and you can't regulate the hitting out of football.

"I understand we’re doing things about player safety and that type of stuff but at the end of the day this is football, this is what we’re playing. You’re going to have some collisions that take place.

"If you don’t want to get hit don’t play football."

Fletcher vocalized his frustrations this week after watching teammate Brandon Meriweather serve a one-game suspension and pay a number of fines for hits deemed to be too high on the receiver.

He defended Meriweather, who he doesn't believe plays with an intent to hurt anyone, but plays a position where decisions must be made in a split second.

"I can see [Meriweather's] frustrations because a lot of times you go in there with the intent of doing it the right way, doing the way you’re coached to do it, and doing it the way the league wants you to do it," Fletcher said. "Let’s say if I’m aiming at your chest area and all of a sudden you lower your head, now things are happing too fast for me to adjust my target.

"You’re going to have collisions that take place and I think the league doesn’t understand or take that into consideration. Sometimes things happen too fast for you to all of a sudden move my head here or to the side to avoid that collision."

Fletcher echoed the concerns of many defensive players who find themselves thinking about avoiding penalties, fines and suspensions rather than going out and making the play.

"You're really not giving me a choice if I want to continue to play because I’m probably going to have to hit a guy so low that it could possibly risk a guy's career," Fletcher said. "The way offensive guys play nowadays, they act half-dead anytime they get hit, so that part doesn’t work. I saw a dude on a Monday Night game act half-dead waiting on an official to throw a flag. [The official] didn’t throw it and he jumped up real quick to complain.

"That’s the thing about offensive players they complain about one thing, next thing you know they’re going to change the rules about you cant hit a guy low now.

"From a defensive standpoint that’s what frustrates you the most about some things."

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