ASHBURN, Va. -- He entered the NFL as an unheralded -- and undrafted -- player from Division III John Carroll University. Sixteen years later, he'll exit as an NFL record holder.
"I want to do some other things in life," Fletcher said.
Thus his career will end after a Dec. 29 road game against the New York Giants.
Fletcher holds the NFL record for consecutive starts by a linebacker with 213. The four-time Pro Bowler has played in 254 straight games; he's the league's active leader and the fourth player to surpass 250 consecutive games played.
Fletcher made St. Louis' roster in 1998 as an unknown from John Carroll in Cleveland and became the team's defensive leader a year later. After four seasons with the Rams, he spent five with Buffalo and seven with Washington. He's never missed a game.
His wife and three daughters live in Charlotte, N.C., during the season, which was a factor in his decision.
"For probably the last four or five years I've always thought about retiring and what do I want to do," said Fletcher, who at one point mentioned a desire to work in broadcasting. "For me, at least, in order to [play] at the level I've been able to do it, it takes a lot of commitment and sacrifice, just time spent training and meeting and watching extra film and all things I've been able to do. And I enjoyed doing it, but I missed a lot of other parts of my life."Fletcher said he knew entering the season that it'd likely be his last, saying there was a 90 percent chance. He said the craziness of the past couple of weeks at Redskins Park did not factor into his decision. He even called for embattled coach Mike Shanahan to receive a contract extension.
Fletcher said it was important for him to leave a legacy -- part of that, he said, was training fellow inside linebacker Perry Riley -- and felt like that had been accomplished.
"Obviously everyone wants to go out like Ray Lewis with the Super Bowl parade," Fletcher said. "That would be a great way to go out. But it wasn't in the cards for me if this is it. But it's more again about trying to leave a legacy and putting some seeds in place and hopefully they'll grow ... and a year down the road I can be proud of this organization. That's how I really look at it."
Fletcher played through various ailments during his career. He acknowledged this past summer that he'd suffered a concussion in training camp in 2012. He also played most of the second half of that season despite a sprained ankle that kept him out of many practices and eventually required surgery.
He sprained his ankle again a couple of weeks ago, prompting Shanahan to think the worst.
"I said, 'There's no way he'll be able to play next week,'" Shanahan said. "That looked like it was a two-, three-week injury. He's practicing on Wednesday. That's quite unusual.
"He doesn't have to play, he doesn't have to practice, but he wanted to set an example for the young guys that this is how you handle yourself as a pro."
The consecutive-games streaks have defined his career.