London Fletcher says he gets his bell rung perhaps twice per game. He has played in 240 consecutive games, not counting preseason and playoffs.
"I play inside linebacker, and I like to play it physical," Fletcher said Thursday. "So, I don't know, it can happen a couple of times a game, but I wouldn't classify them as concussions; they're just, you know, bell-ringing. You'll see stars for a second, and then you're back to normal in two, three seconds, whatever the case may be. That's just the way the game is."
Fletcher's comments about regular "bell-ringing" are sure to add to the growing debate surrounding football safety. Experts have tried to educate coaches and players that "getting your bell rung" is not something to be ignored. That only works, however, if the player reports it or a coach or teammate notices it.
"Obviously, looking back, I should've told the team about that part of it a lot sooner because it was something that was taken care of immediately," Fletcher said. "That's the only regret I have about the situation."
Fletcher, who's 38 and never has missed a game in 16 NFL seasons, is decidedly old-school. In a profile in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, he revealed that last preseason, he suffered a concussion that he and the team kept secret from the public.
"I'm not going to tell an opponent about anything that I've got going on, so it's just the way I am," Fletcher told reporters in the Redskins' locker room. "You play football, you have things that bother you all the time. If I go around telling you all everything that's bothering me, you'd be writing a story every day."
So what was suspected was true. When Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said Fletcher was "not feeling right" and kept evading follow-up questions, it turned out that the linebacker did suffer a concussion when he was hit by a teammate while defending a pass in the 2012 preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills. Fletcher stayed in the game for a few more plays before telling trainers he was feeling dizzy, and he missed the next preseason game.
Asked why he didn't reveal Fletcher's concussion, Shanahan said: "I don't remember, to be honest with you. I've got a hard enough time thinking about what it was last week with injuries, yet a year ago."
Teams are not required to issue regular injury reports during preseason.
"If I had suffered the concussion in a regular-season game, I would not have been able to play that following week," Fletcher said.
What Fletcher didn't tell the trainers was that he was dealing with a byproduct from the concussion well into the regular season. He was over the actual concussion, but something still wasn't right with his head.
"It wasn't a situation where I was all wobbly or anything like that," Fletcher said. "It's just every now and then I would maybe have a little sway. I would notice it. Nobody else would notice it. So I never told the team about that."
It wasn't until he had a hamstring injury in October that Fletcher told the team about his "balance" issues. It turned out to be problem in his neck that was easily resolved. Fletcher hadn't been his usual self up until then. Once the problem was treated, he had a strong second half and was named second-team All-Pro.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.