|Dane Fletcher still coming to Patriots team meetings because he ‘digs’ football||08.31.12 at 4:28 pm ET|
FOXBORO — In basketball, players who hang around the gym all the time are called “gym rats.”
The Patriots have the equivalent. His name is Dane Fletcher.
The linebacker and special teams player said Friday that he will have surgery on his injured left knee next week. The linebacker tore his ACL during the team’s preseason opener on Aug. 9 against the Saints during punt coverage. Fletcher was immediately placed on injury waivers by the team and cleared before the team claimed him back 24 hours later and placed him on injured reserve.
Still, he wants to be around the team in the days before and after his surgery to prove a point. He loves the game and is appreciative that the Patriots placed him on injured reserve after waiving him.
“I’m still waiting to have surgery,” said Fletcher, who is in the final year of his three-year, $1.225 million deal. “I’m coming along good, as good as you can so far. We’ll see. You just don’t know. It doesn’t ever to make a lot of sense for another team – in my circumstance – to pick me up. This is my last year of my contract and whatnot. I understand why the Patriots did it. After you tear your ACL and be on waivers for 24 hours, I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t nervous for 24 hours just for the fact you might have to pick up and move. That’d be a tough transition in that kind of situation.”
Fletcher was in the Patriots locker room with a black wrap around the injured knee and said he is getting treatment in advance of the procedure next week.
“Not even being able to get out there with your guys in the regular season, it hurts but I look at everything positive,” Fletcher said. “At least it kind of happened early in the year so I have a full year to recover and be back for next year. That’s the way I look at it.”
Fletcher can remember the punt coverage play distinctly. It was a punt, as it turned out, that didn’t even count in the box score because of a procedure penalty on the Saints. Fletcher was flying down as a gunner when he got nudged from behind by Johnny Patrick of the Saints.
“When you’re running down, you’re breaking down to make the tackle and it threw me off,” Fletcher said. “Maybe he nudged me a little from the side or from the back. He threw me off, my center of gravity. You can only look into it so much and [realize] it happened.”
Before the players ratified the modified injured reserve clause this week, a player placed on injured reserve was finished for the season. That is not necessarily the case now as each team can declare one player to take off injured reserve during a season. However, with a recovery period of 6-8 months expected, Fletcher is not expected to be one of those eligible players.
“This is definitely my longest [injury absence] in sports,” Fletcher added. “I work hard. The thing is hanging out with a couple of guys and still watch film every day with Lofa Tatupu. We watch every game because I think that’s half of it. If you’re out for a little bit of time, it’s more the mental aspect of the game people slow down on and don’t pay attention to the details. In my own time, I breaking down different offensive coordinators, I like seeing what other teams are doing because you never know. I just love studying the game. Even when I’m out of here, I still come to meetings because I dig it.
“I love football. When I’m at home, I still watch all the other games and just break down the formations and whatnot just to stay on top of the mental aspect of the game.”
And Fletcher can think of worse places to be than inside the walls of Gillette Stadium getting his masters in football.
“You learn so much around here,” Fletcher said. “That’s the main thing. Until I got here, I thought I knew football. And then I got here and I didn’t know anything about football. Shoot, I still learn more and more every day. Belichick does a great job of breaking down formations; breaking down film for you and help you understand the concepts of what teams do. So, I can take that and carry it over to other offensive coordinators and break them down the same way and the same format in your mind.
“Obviously, I want to be on the field. There’s no question about that. But sometimes you get caught up in the moment of trying to rehab, take care of your body and stuff instead of harnessing in and learning the game. I look at this in a positive light. I kind of just say this is my year where I’m going to really harness in and study the game and learn it from head to toe, what I can in one season.”
Ironically, Fletcher spoke on one of the grimmest days of the NFL calendar, cutdown day when rosters are trimmed from 75 to 53.
“You never know,” he said. “That’s the main thing. I remember my rookie year, one of the coaches came in. It’s that sick feeling. Even if you think you’re on the team, you still don’t know unless you’re just one of the guys. I’ve always been like, ‘you don’t know.’
“It’s tough, especially that rookie year, where you’re like, ‘Did I make the team or not?’ I came in and it was 4 o’clock my rookie year, ‘Did I make the team?’ One of the coaches said, ‘One thing you have to learn right now is 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.’ That hit home. I was like, ‘All right, so I made the team for today and come in to work tomorrow.’ That’s how you look at it. This is such a good group of guys that you wish everybody could stick around but it doesn’t work that way.”
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