The More the Merriman
Sun Tzu said that the first lines of attack or defense are spies, so my recent move to the climes of southern California may have multiple advantages for this Broncos fan and hopefully the members of the Mile High Report. Since along with my new location in Carlsbad I get both the Sunday LA Times and the daily San Diego Union-Tribune, I hope to provide information and occasionally perspective while deepening my knowledge of the game as provided by the local media. Thanks
I got off the plane in San Diego this week to find three things waiting for me - a great soaking tub at my new home in Carlsbad, a sea of boxes and the San Diego Union-Tribune. The first was spectacular, the second inevitable and the third was awash with the latest on Shawne Merriman.
Merriman is a fellow who has taken steps to plan for life after football. Already a perennial pro bowler in his first three seasons, Merriman has developed a stable of
business activities from endorsements and appearances to businesses and broadcasting. He's currently getting ready to fly to LA after practices to tape a show about the NFL for Fox Sports Net. Recently, those activities appear to have run afoul of AJ Smith
"Shawne has many, many activities off the field and that's his business," said Smith "along with his agents, marketing people, publicist and business partners. My only hope is that he remembers that his high-level football performance is what drives his off-the-field attraction.
It's hard to miss AJ Smith's irritated perspective, in case the second 'many' didn't clue you in. The U-T reported that Chargers sources say that the team has mentioned it's concern with Shawne's off field activities more than once.
Merriman was reported to be hurt when he heard about this quote. And speaking of hurt, Shawne is dealing with an ACL/PCL injury that may put him out for the entire 2008 season. His contract expires in 2009 and the word from the U-T's Kevin Acee is that Merriman will not be a Charger after that time. Five key Chargers, including their QB and left tackle will have contracts that expire after the 2009 season and Smith has reportedly made it clear that he will not resign all of them. Merriman and 30 year old Chris Chambers are the two most often mentioned as being on the bubble, although rumors and 'reports' aren't the same as firm knowledge. Merriman's salary is being reported as 'gigantic' (DB?) and it is suspected that the Chargers consider a Pro Bowl linebacker as more replaceable than the QB and his left tackle. Time will tell, and the issue could end up being moot.
Although Merriman had surgery in March on the same knee, he has said that it hasn't healed properly and has sought multiple opinions as to where to go next. A full reconstruction that will keep him out for a year is being mentioned, but Merriman seems to be fighting that diagnosis. Merriman has consulted specialists from LA to Birmingham and may go to Miami this week for another opinion.
Merriman admits that he has to think beyond football and beyond 2008 and 2009. "That's always a reality," he has said. Still, like most in the NFL game, he is focused on getting this knee in football shape and on a return to the field.
"It's finding out what I need to fix, what I need to do," said Merriman. "I just want to play."
Over the next few days we got a clearer picture. As reported on MHR and elsewhere, Merriman has at least two tear, one is a stage 3 (nasty) and the joint itself is unstable. He plans to start the season anyway, although many fear that he cannot finish it.
A doctor from the Jobe clinic in LA named Neal Alattrache has been in the news about Merriman this week. He is stated as being a consultant to several NFL teams. Friday he was quoted as saying that Merriman's knee isn't as bad as he reports and that he could play safely. Saturday he was quoted as saying the the knee is unstable and 'tricky' and that he might damage it further by playing. That's the problem with making medical statements without seeing the chart and the test results - he's really blowing smoke up our collective elimination chakra and we need to keep that in mind unless an athlete is his direct patient. (Some of these fellows are tremendous by the way; some just like seeing their names in print. Take it all with a grain of salt).
Merriman has a high risk of further damage. Right now, he could take 2008 off and return at some point in 2009 - perhaps even before training camp - although it might be longer - and be even stronger than he is right now. If he plays, he might be fine, for a while, and he also might create permanent damage and never walk the same again. Why return this year?
I'm stubborn as hell," he said yesterday.
So, what drives the Merrimans of this league? It isn't the money - he couldn't spend what he already has. He has successful business careers waiting for him to retire. It might be the fame, and the drive to have more - more records, more limelight, and more awards. But I doubt it.
Because it just might be the way he says it is. He just might not care about anything but the sheer incredible joy of being able to do what so few will ever be able to do ,that fast, that powerfully, that perfectly. Of going out game after game and experiencing that powerful, addictive surge on the field that he knows, deep down, he'll never be able to experience anywhere again.
"I just want to play," he said.
I think that we have to believe him.