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Bolts illuminate 'Lights Out'

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Aug 3, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    <strong>August 3, 2005</strong>
    Source: <a href="http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2005/08/03/sports/professional/chargers/21_29_578_2_05.txt">The North County Times</a>

    SAN DIEGO ---- "Lights Out" is no longer left out. Shawne Merriman, the Chargers' top draft pick, went through his initial NFL practice Tuesday night as the Chargers turned the lights on at Chargers Park.

    "I still have a lot to learn, but it went pretty good," Merriman said. "But I've been out of football for seven months. I was just out there having fun."

    Merriman, the draft's 12th overall selection, nicknamed "Lights Out" for his thunderous hits, will be evaluated at outside linebacker and defensive end after missing 11 practices in a contract dispute.

    "I'm excited to be here,'' Merriman said. "I'm in football shape, track shape, any kind of shape. I've been doing it all since I've been out, and I'm just trying to get myself back to playing football again."

    Merriman was not only tardy to training camp, but he skipped the offseason minicamps and workouts. Unclear if the Chargers would negotiate in good faith if injured, Merriman stayed home instead of training in San Diego.

    "I have great teammates and I don't think it will be a problem with the chemistry at all," said Merriman, who's guaranteed $9 million in his five-year deal, which is potentially worth $15.73 million.

    With the injury bug biting the Chargers' linebackers, Merriman will likely get most of his work there. Playing the outside position in the team's 3-4 alignment is more demanding than defensive end.

    "I can play both,'' the confident 6-foot-4, 263-pound Merriman said. "I did a lot of pass coverage in college, but we had a lot of blitzes going on. The system when I was back at the University of Maryland isn't too far from what we have here. There's just a lot of different terminology and guys that have been here 10 years-plus. So that's going to be a big difference."

    The Chargers' fingers are crossed Merriman is a difference-maker. They targeted him with the first of their two opening-round picks because of his pass-rushing skills. That's an area where the Chargers' defense has been dreadful.

    Merriman left Maryland after his junior season with 22 career sacks, the second-most in school history. He had a team-high 8 1/2 sacks and 17 tackles for losses last year.

    The Chargers managed but 29 sacks last season. Only two NFL teams had fewer.

    So Merriman, who believed he was headed for the Cowboys at the No. 11 spot, joins a playoff squad, one with a need for his expertise.

    "It's not often you go that early in the draft and be a part of a winning program,'' Merriman said. "The man upstairs worked it out for me perfectly. I was hoping I could become a Charger.''

    How long before he becomes a reliable Charger will be determined.

    "I'm a pretty quick learner," Merriman said. "I can't say two days, three days. But I'm no stranger to the film room. If I got to bring a pillow and a blanket to sleep in there to learn the playbook, I will make sure I get everything down pat.

    "I'm sure I'm going to make some mistakes but that comes along with being a rookie. My head is going to be on a swivel; I'm going to be a little hesitant trying to make plays because I'm going to try and figure out if I'm doing it right or not. But I told the coaches if I make a mistake, it's going to be at 100 percent, whether I'm right or wrong."

    Where does the blame fall for him avoiding the offseason workouts?

    "I don't think nobody is to blame,'' he said. "Like everyone said, it's a business, and that's the business aspect of it.

    "Several times I thought of catching a flight and just coming out here and playing and knocking some heads around. But you have to put it in perspective that this is your job now, no matter how much you love football and love being on the field with your teammates. If something goes wrong with your job and you're out of work, what are you going to do next?"

    On deck for Merriman is some good-natured ribbing and a dinner for his veteran teammates courtesy of his guaranteed money. The Chargers are hopeful Merriman pays off for years to come.

    "Any rookie has to have goals, but you have to make your goals realistic,'' he said. "I don't put figures or stats in my goals. What I do put in is I want to learn and try to move myself into a veteran (mode) as early as I can and not play as a rookie. That's my No. 1 goal.

    "You are going to make rookie mistakes, regardless of who you are or how good you are. It's more how many mistakes are you going to make before you are going to correct them."

    Make no mistake, the Chargers are primed to point Merriman toward quarterbacks. With or without the lights on.
     

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