Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was being evaluated by a neurologist for a possible head injury Thursday and missed practice for a second consecutive day, putting his 15-year consecutive-games streak in doubt.
Coach Mike Shanahan said Fletcher was checked for about six hours by a doctor for a "balance issue." Shanahan listed the 37-year-old Fletcher as not practicing because of head and hamstring problems.
"If he's able to go, you know he's going to be able to go. But I'm sure he's a little scared, too, because any time you deal with a balance issue, it's something that's out of your control," Shanahan said. "London's a smart guy. He wants to play, but at the same time, he understands that if there's something wrong with your balance, that's a pretty tough situation to be in and he's smart enough not to put his body into a situation that could hurt him."
Shanahan said he did not know whether Fletcher has a concussion and wouldn't be able to provide more information about the player's status until Friday.
Fletcher has appeared in 231 NFL games in a row since entering the league as an undrafted rookie with the St. Louis Rams in 1998.
He left Washington's 27-23 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday in the second half with what the team said was a right hamstring injury.
The Redskins (3-4) are at the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) on Sunday.
"Could he play? I can't tell you that for sure until we go out on the field and until we find out what the problem is with his balance," Shanahan said.
The team didn't know about the balance problem until Monday, according to Shanahan. Fletcher attended practice on Wednesday but didn't take part, then limped off the field.
Fletcher's consecutive-games streak is the longest among active players, and the second longest for any defensive player since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. Fletcher and Tampa Bay defensive back Ronde Barber have usually been tied atop the active list, but Fletcher moved one game ahead this month when the Buccaneers had their bye week.
Fletcher came close to missing a game three previous times — last season because of a hamstring, in 2008 because of a foot, and in 2005 because of a hamstring while with the Buffalo Bills.
In August, Fletcher missed a series of practices and a preseason game against the Chicago Bears. At the time, Shanahan said Fletcher was "not feeling right" but did not give any details.
If he is out Sunday, backup inside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander would take Fletcher's spot and wear the headset helmet that allows contact with the sideline.
"What you lose from London is obviously the leadership role, the passion and energy that he brings to the game, much like a Ray Lewis," Alexander said. "Obviously you can't match what he brings to the game experience-wise — there's not too many guys who have played 15 years and have called out defenses — but am I capable of going in there and playing and getting in there and winning a game for us as well? Yes."
The Redskins continue to be without receiver Pierre Garcon, who said Thursday he's hoping to avoid surgery after a doctor told him he has a torn ligament on the bottom of his right foot.
"He wants to play, and he tried to push through that pain, and it just got to be so bad he couldn't be effective," Shanahan said.
Garcon described the injury that's sidelined him for four of Washington's past six games as a "plantar plate tear" near his second toe. The plantar plate is a ligament that holds a toe in its joint.
"Surgery is an option. Probably done for the year. But we don't really want to think about that at all," Garcon said. "I don't want to have surgery. I've never had surgery before, so want to keep my streak alive. But it could be a possibility if it doesn't heal right. They have to go in there and fix the ligament, if it needs to be fixed."
Garcon only has eight catches for 153 yards this season, his first with the Redskins after signing a $42.5 million, five-year contract as a free agent.
He visited a foot specialist Wednesday and was told the injury probably can't worsen if Garcon plays on it, "but it can feel worse."
The toe began bothering him during the preseason, Garcon said, and he "felt a pop" during Washington's victory over the New Orleans Saints in Week 1. Garcon had four catches for 109 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown pass from Griffin, in that game.
He missed the next two games, returned for two, and has been sidelined again the past two weeks.
"I played with it. I can play with it. But I can't really run full speed. I can't really explode, be fast," Garcon said Thursday. "Trying to get treatment and trying to get back out there as fast as we can, but there's no real timetable set for it or no real specific treatment to get it healed."
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