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Fletcher Replaces Vilma On Pro Bowl Squad


The New Orleans Saints are going to the Super Bowl--and that means middle linebacker London Fletcher is going to the Pro Bowl.

Fletcher replaces Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma at the annual all-star game, held at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida on Sunday, Jan. 31. He joins Brian Orakpo as a Redskins representative.

Vilma, who helped the Saints defeat the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 in overtime on Sunday night, will be preparing for Super Bowl XXIV instead of playing in the Pro Bowl.

"I'm extremely ecstatic," Fletcher said in comments released by the Redskins on Sunday night. "It is a long time coming--12 years and one overtime, but it was worth the wait. I want to thank my teammates and coaches who helped me get this recognition. I want to also thank the fans and players who voted for me.

"It will mean a great deal to be out of the field with the best of the best in a different type of environment. I am excited to get to meet the families of the other players, get to visit and talk with the other guys around the league, and have an opportunity to play with them in this game."

When Pro Bowl rosters were announced on Dec. 29, Fletcher was left off the squad again. Vilma and Patrick Willis of the San Francisco 49ers were the Pro Bowl middle linebackers.

Fletcher was, however, named a first alternate to the Pro Bowl, meaning that if either Vilma or San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis could not play, then Fletcher would get their spot.

Fletcher had never made the Pro Bowl in his 12-year career despite being among the best at his position year after year.

Through the 2009 season, Fletcher has played in 192 consecutive games, second behind only Brett Favre among active players, and has started 150 consecutive games, fourth among active players.

He has posted 100 tackles each of the last 11 seasons, including the last three with the Redskins, and his 1,378 tackles is the most of any defensive player from 2000-09.

Last season, Fletcher led the Redskins' defense with 172 tackles (104 solo) and had two sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.

Fletcher admitted that he was rooting for the Saints to make the Super Bowl so that he would have the opportunity to replace Vilma on the NFC squad.

"I'm a huge New Orleans fan," Fletcher joked on Dec. 30. "I'll send [Saints defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams a text saying, 'I'm a huge New Orleans fan. Congratulations Vilma. Go Saints.'"

Kickoff from South Florida is 7:30 p.m. ET. The game is broadcast on ESPN.

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