Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher is at that age where post-career planning is essential.
One possibility for the 37-year-old, 15th-year pro: Tony Romo’s publicist.
In a conference call with the Dallas media Wednesday to discuss Sunday night’s NFC East title game, Fletcher praised the Cowboys’ quarterback in the same enthusiastic manner he goes about slamming ball carriers.
“You look at the way he’s been playing lately,” said Fletcher, who leads the Redskins in tackles and interceptions. “He’s been playing as good a football as any quarterback in the league these last four, five ballgames. You look at all the numbers he’s been doing, all the plays he’s made, and then Dez Bryant playing the way he’s playing, (Jason) Witten playing the way he’s playing.
“You got some guys playing some great football, but it starts definitely with Tony.”
In forging a 3-1 December record, Romo has completed 66 percent of his passes for an average of 332 yards a game, with 10 touchdowns and only one interception.
But Romo got hot long before this month. Over his last eight games, he’s thrown 17 TD passes and three interceptions while totaling 2,612 yards for an average of 326.5 yards per game.
For the season, Romo has completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 4,685 yards, with 26 TDs and 16 picks for a rating of 92.5 (10th in the NFL).
“His (December) touchdown-interception rate is off the charts,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said in another conference call. “I think everybody knows how good Tony plays. His supporting cast is really complementing his play as well.”
Indeed, Bryant, Witten and DeMarco Murray provide Romo with plenty of options.
With 808 yards and 10 TDs in his past seven games, Bryant has emerged as the club’s No. 1 wide receiver. Witten last week set a season record for catches by a tight end with 103 and needs nine more to eclipse Michael Irvin’s club record. Murray has rushed for a TD in three of his last four games.
Still, it’s Romo who worries Fletcher the most. With the 32-year-old passer seemingly making all the right moves, the Cowboys are third in the league in passing offense (302.2 yards). The Redskins, meanwhile, rank 30th in passing defense (287.7 yards per game).
For the season, Romo is averaging 312.3 yards per game and needs 315 more to become only the fifth NFL quarterback to pass for more than 5,000 in a season.
And it’s not all because of his arm and legs, Fletcher said.
“I don’t know that he gets as much credit for being as smart as he is,” said Fletcher, who missed practice Wednesday because of a lingering ankle injury. “A lot of people look at his athleticism and the plays he’s able to make outside of the pocket. But he does a great job knowing where he wants to go with the ball based on the coverage.”
With the Cowboys falling behind 28-3 in the second quarter, Romo passed for a career-high 441 yards against the Redskins in the first meeting, won 38-31 by Washington. He also threw three TDs and two interceptions, including one picked off by Fletcher, who has a career-high five picks.
“Really, it’s just the coaches making the calls and being in the right place at the right time,” Fletcher said of his interception total. “It’s a pass-first league now, so you have to be able to make adjustments.”
With the way Romo is playing, the Redskins and Fletcher could be forced to make plenty of them Sunday night.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware missed practice Wednesday with shoulder and elbow injuries. He played in only 59 of 95 plays in Sunday’s game after leaving with a shoulder strain. He left with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter and returned for one play of overtime. He said Wednesday that he would play Sunday.
Five other players missed practice, which was moved indoors to Cowboys Stadium. Linebacker Brady Poppinga and nose tackle Robert Callaway had travel problems getting back to DFW after the two-day Christmas break. Defensive end Jason Hatcher (thigh) said he would play Sunday. Linebacker Victor Butler (groin) also was out. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who had sports hernia surgery two weeks ago, will be out again this week.
Linebacker Alex Albright (knee) was limited.
Receiver Dez Bryant (finger), running back DeMarco Murray (foot), running back Felix Jones (knee) and linebacker Ernie Sims (concussion) were full participants.
RELATED: Jason Hatcher’s thigh will be fine come Sunday, he says
Defensive end Jason Hatcher said he missed practice only as a precaution. His thigh will be "100 percent by the time Sunday comes," Hatcher promises.
"It’s doing good," Hatcher said Wednesday. "I’m a veteran. I understand. I listen to my body. It was one of those days I felt like I should have just rested a little bit more. Tomorrow, I’ll do a little bit more.
"Am I worried about me playing Sunday? No."
Hatcher has had 68 tackles, 4 sacks and 21 quarterback pressures this season.
RELATED: DeMarcus Ware promises to play through pain
Linebacker DeMarcus Ware said he will not wear any type of harness on his strained shoulder nor will be take a pain-killing injection. But he will be in the lineup come Sunday.
"I feel a lot better right now," Ware said Wednesday. "I’m going regardless."
Ware, who already was playing with a hyperextended elbow, had to leave last week’s game with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter after "tweaking" the shoulder. He returned for a third-down play in overtime. Ware played 59 of 95 plays. He did not practice Wednesday.
"I’m going to tell you something, 75 percent of DeMarcus Ware is probably better than 90 percent of the guys who play the position at the end of the day," Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher said. "I’ll take 75 percent vs. no DWare any day. Wherever he is right now, I’ll take it."
Ware has never missed a game in his NFL career and has failed to start only one of 127 games. He didn’t start a 2009 game against New Orleans because of a neck injury.
Ware has 11.5 sacks this season, but only 2.5 have come in the past seven games. He has been without a sack in three of his past five games.
Receiver Dez Bryant might get to the Pro Bowl yet, but he’ll have to have one of the four players named Wednesday to pull out to get the chance to go to Hawaii. Bryant said earlier Wednesday he would be "happy, who wouldn’t be" with a Pro Bowl nod.
Instead, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, and Victor Cruz were the choices on the initial list released Wednesday night. Players whose teams make the Super Bowl do not play in the Pro Bowl, which is the week before the Super Bowl.
Linebacker DeMarcus Ware and tight end Jason Witten were the two Cowboys named to the Pro Bowl. Ware made his seventh all-star team and Witten his eighth.
Bryant was left off despite ranking third among NFC wideouts with 88 catches and fourth in yards with 1,311. His 12 touchdowns ranks second among NFC wideouts. Balloting for players and coaches took place last week, though, before Bryant had nine catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints.
Witten and Ware were the only Cowboys who ranked in the top five in fan balloting. Witten was third and Ware second at their respective positions.
Witten has set the NFL record for most catches in a single season for a tight end with 103. Witten was left off the Pro Bowl roster last season, passed over by Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham.
“It is always an honor to get voted, especially when a portion of the vote comes from your peers around the league," Witten said in a statement released by the Cowboys. "I have a lot of respect for this league and the players that make up this league. I know how many great players there are around the NFL, and to be selected is very humbling.”
Ware has only 11.5 sacks this season, tying him for third in the NFC. He might not play in the game, because of injuries he has played through this season.
“What an honor and privilege it is to be voted to the Pro Bowl by the fans, coaches and players around the league," Ware said in a statement released by the Cowboys. "I know how difficult it is to make it to the game, and I appreciate the support from everyone. I look forward to not only representing the NFC, but also the entire Dallas Cowboys organization.”
Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer and kicker Dan Bailey were the other Cowboys deserving of the honor.
NFL 2012 Pro Bowl Roster – By position