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Great Dane: Fletcher feels good after returning to the field

12.13.11 at 2:05 pm ET

Dane Fletcher (AP)

For the Patriots, it’s hard to imagine someone was more jacked and pumped to face the Redskins that linebacker Dane Fletcher.

Fletcher was on the shelf for an extended stretch because of a thumb injury (an injury the Boston Globe indicated that required multiple surgeries), but returned Sunday for his first real action since a Week Four win over Oakland and finished with seven tackles and one quarterback hit in the win.

“Playing on Sundays … that’s kind of what I live for,” Fletcher said Monday afternoon. “It felt good to be back out there.”

Fletcher got into it early, making the tackle on the opening kickoff and looking no worse for wear much of the afternoon. He started at the middle linebacker spot in the Patriots 4-3 defense, and according to Pro Football Focus, he played 49 of a possible 79 snaps at linebacker for New England in the win.

“Every time you’re out for a little bit, dinged up, it feels good to get back in the lineup and get that first hit out of the way,” he said.

“I thought Dane did some good things, starting with the opening kickoff — he made a nice tackle on that,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the Montana State product, in his second season with New England. “I thought Dane was in on a lot of tackles. It looked like he played with good anticipation and was around the ball.”

His time on the sidelines was a frustrating stretch for the 6-foot-2, 244-pound linebacker

“You know, whatever you can do as far as training, I went above and beyond the criteria,” Fletcher said. “You have to train here and on your own time, when the team’s gone, to get prepared for Sundays again. My main goal when I was out a little bit was to be able to come back fully in shape and have a decent body on me.”

There have also been some wholesale changes to the New England defense since he first went down, including new defensive back Nate Jones and the appearance of Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman in the Patriots’ secondary.

“Yeah, there’s always different looks especially this late in the season. There’s different offenses throwing some much different variation at what you can see. So, as a defense, you have to have different looks for what they come out with also,” he said. “In meetings, you communicate as a group. So, if a star goes down, you have another guy that communicates just as well. Those guys are filling in the roles very well, and I hope they continue.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dane Fletcher, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater
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