FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The official count lists 33 first-timers for the AFC and NFC Pro Bowl squads. None have waited longer than London Fletcher.
Fletcher, who referred to himself as “the Susan Lucci of the NFL” after he was left off the roster last season, is hands-down the feel good story of the 2010 Pro Bowl after waiting 12 seasons for his first selection.
“Yeah, it does. It feels like it’s been a long time coming,” Fletcher said Wednesday, following his first Pro Bowl practice. “But I’m here now. So, I’m grateful, thankful and blessed to be here.”
Fletcher wouldn’t bite at the notion he feels vindicated after such a long wait. Despite registering 128 or more total tackles in eight straight seasons and never missing a game during his entire career, Fletcher admitted he was truly just happy to be here.
“Once I knew I was going to the Pro Bowl, I was so excited about it,” he said. “I don’t know how all the other guys felt about it, but I was extremely excited. I didn’t sleep for two days. That just lets you know how I felt about it.”
It was difficult not to feel good for Fletcher while watching he and his fellow defensive Pro Bowlers re-learn the fine art of special teams during Wednesday’s practice. Even if he was added to the roster as a first alternate when Jonathan Vilma’s Saints reached the Super Bowl, his name can be removed from the conversation of best players never to have reached a Pro Bowl.
“I think you still have to understand that the guys who are here are still elite players,” Fletcher said about the voting process and replacing starters. “Every year, the guys who are initially voted in aren’t necessarily better than the guys who weren’t voted in. You have to understand there’s a lot of great players in this game.”
— Frank Tadych