Patriots' LB Fletcher upbeat despite going on IR
FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP)
Dane Fletcher views football, and life, differently these days.
Simply surviving the New England Patriots final roster cuts is no
guarantee a player will be around for long. And being sidelined for a
full season doesn't mean a player can't keep learning the game.
As those cuts were approaching two years ago, the undrafted linebacker
asked an assistant coach about his uncertain status. That's when the
rookie free agent from Montana State learned a valuable lesson.
''The coach is like, `Dane, one thing you've got to learn right now is
that you never made the team, especially around here. You could be gone
tomorrow. Even if you make the team today, you could be gone
tomorrow,''' Fletcher said. ''That hit home. I was like, `All right, so
I made the team for today and I'll come into work tomorrow.' That's how
you look at it.''
That optimistic outlook has served Fletcher well, though he didn't have
to worry about being among the team's cuts when they reduced their
roster from 75 to 53 players - as long as he stayed healthy.
Dane Fletcher #52 of the New England Patriots celebrates with teammate
Patrick Chung #25 during their AFC Championship Game against the New
England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro,
Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
He was expected to see more time on defense and play a vital role on
special teams but tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee
during The Opening quarter of the Patriots' first preseason game. He
was placed on injured reserve two weeks ago.
Facing surgery next week, Fletcher's attitude remains positive.
''Not even to be able to get out there with your guys in the regular
season and what not, it hurts,'' he said. ''But, you know, I look at
everything positive and at least it kind of happened early in the year,
so I have a full year to recover and be back for next year.''
The 25-year-old Fletcher started at linebacker for the injured Brandon Spikes against the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 9 and was hurt while
running down the field trying to make a tackle on punt coverage.
The next week was a tense one, just as the final roster cutdown day was
two years ago.
Shortly after the injury, the Patriots placed Fletcher on waivers,
allowing any team to claim him. A day later, he was put on injured
He said it didn't make sense for another team to claim him because he's
injured and in the final year of his contract. Yet he understood why
the Patriots made the move.
''I'm not going to lie and say I wasn't nervous for 24 hours,''
Fletcher said, ''just for the fact that you might have to pick up and
move, and that'd be a tough transition in that kind of situation.''
When the ordeal was over, Fletcher voiced his relief, tweeting,
''Whewww glad to still be a Pat!''
And for more reasons than not having to relocate.
Fletcher relishes the opportunity to remain in New England, where he
can benefit from the teachings of coach Bill Belichick.
''Until I got here, I thought I knew football, and then I got here and
I was like I didn't know anything about football. Shoot, I still learn
more and more every day,'' he said. ''Belichick does a great job at
just breaking down formations, breaking down film for you and helping
you understand the concepts of what teams do.''
With more time on his hands, Fletcher is trying to make the most of it.
''Even when I'm out of here, I still come to meetings and what not just
because I dig it. I love football,'' he said.
When he's not at Gillette Stadium, Fletcher watches games and film,
breaking down formations and the work of opposing offensive
''I think that's half of it,'' he said. ''If you're out for a little
bit of time, it's more the mental aspect of the game that people slow
down on and don't pay attention to the details.''
He's even teamed up with veteran linebacker Lofa Tatupu, the two
mentally rehabbing together.
The three-time Pro Bowler with the Seattle Seahawks, who graduated from
King Philip Regional High School in Wrentham and whose father, Mosi,
played 13 seasons for the Patriots, was signed by the Atlanta Falcons
in March. But he has a torn pectoral muscle and also is expected to be
sidelined for the season.
Recently, the two were reviewing techniques and man-to-man coverage in
Tatupu's basement, preparing as if they were suiting up for the next
''We just take whatever we can off each other and it's great,''
The injury may be a blessing in disguise for Fletcher. There is always
more to learn in the NFL.
''Obviously, I want to be on the field,'' he said. ''Sometimes you get
caught up in the moment of just trying to rehab, take care of your body
and stuff, instead of really harnessing in and learning the game.
''I look at this in the positive light and I kind of just say this is
my year where I'm going to really just harness in and study the game
and learn it from head to toe,'' Fletcher added.
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