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News » San Diego Chargers Inside Slant 2009-05-08

San Diego Chargers Inside Slant 2009-05-08

San Diego Chargers Inside Slant 2009-05-08
Linebacker Shawne Merriman, who missed all but one game in his fourth season as a pro, still has the fire in his belly that led to him being selected a Pro Bowler in his first three seasons.

"I'm frustrated as hell," Merriman said. "I want to get out there and play ball. The advantage I have is that I get to do it with a helmet and shoulder pads, so any frustration I have will be taken out on the field."

It's a big year for Merriman in many ways. Not only does he want to regain his status as being among the NFL's premier pass-rushers, but his contract expires at the end of the year.

So far, the Chargers have made no movement to extend his contract. Save for a long-term deal -- which figures to be one of the richest ever for a defender, the Chargers could bring him back as a franchise player.

But that is down the road. The course which lays immediately ahead is finding that path to the pocket -- something Merriman is keen on doing.

The "Hollywood" tag often lands at Merriman's cleats as he is involved in so many other things outside of football, but he said don't be fooled.

"My hard work has produced (39.5) sacks in three years and been rewarded with Pro Bowls and team victories," he said. "Those are the accomplishments I look to, but it is kind of sad that people don't know about everything I'm doing, all the hard work I'm putting in behind the scenes. They only see me when I'm in front of a camera.

"Pretty soon it will be out there, about how much time I've spent getting ready for this comeback."

The Chargers are eager to watch Merriman do his thing. The pass defense was horrid last year, as the team finished with the NFL's No. 31 ranking. Time and again, passers faded back with little pressure, able to give their receivers enough time to find a crease.

With Merriman zeroing in on them, the Chargers hope that is no longer the case.

"I'm not a doctor, but I'm very pleased with what I'm hearing," Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said. "He's on schedule and he should be ready to go in training camp."

Merriman wasn't quite ready for minicamp, with the Chargers being cautious with their star defender.

But in watching him work on the side, it's evident Merriman isn't far from being set to go.

"I've been eager to push myself to the limit," Merriman said. "I've been doing some things over the last six to nine months that I never thought I was capable of. But when you're put into a situation when you want to go out there and do something no one's done before, it brings the best out of you."

And the Chargers' pass rushing may be the best thing about the defensive unit.

Not only will a motivated Merriman be back, but he joins Shaun Phillips (a team-high 7 1/2 sacks last year) and first-round pick Larry English, a pass-rush specialist out of Northern Illinois.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 8, 2009

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Cory Withrow Name: Cory Withrow
Position: C
Age: 33
Experience: 9 years
College: Washington State
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