Source: <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ap-chargers-playoffs&prov=ap&type=lgns" target="_blank">Associated Press</a>
By Bernie Wilson
<img src="http://i.a.cnn.net/si/2006/scorecard/10/25/brushback.merriman/merriman.jpg" alt="Shawne Merriman" align="left" height="221" width="162" />SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Shawne "Lights Out" Merriman flip-flopped again.
Four weeks ago, the San Diego Chargers' Pro Bowl outside linebacker accused the Tennessee Titans of a cheap shot that left him hobbling off the field during an overly physical game.
Now, with the Titans coming to town for a wild-card playoff game on Sunday, Merriman's message is -- uh, never mind.
"I think the situation of the things happening before was really blown out of proportion, really" Merriman said Wednesday, when the AFC West champion Chargers (11-5) began preparing to face a Tennessee team they beat 23-17 in overtime on Dec. 9. "If any payback is due, the league already took care of it. I'm over it. I'm ready to go out and play football."
Merriman sprained his left knee when he was hit by Titans center Kevin Mawae and right tackle David Stewart, forcing him out of the game and keeping him sidelined the following Sunday. Mawae was fined $5,000 for his hit on Merriman, and Stewart was fined $12,500 for hitting Merriman and for a late shove on another Chargers player.
The Titans (10-6) weren't happy that Merriman collided with quarterback Vince Young after he handed off to a running back.
After the game, the conspiracy theory arose. Merriman said he heard that Titans coach Jeff Fisher put out a hit on him.
Merriman offered a tangled explanation on Wednesday.
Asked who told him about Fisher putting out the hit, Merriman said: "Some teammates who weren't playing in the game who just saw him across the way, some people who were just around, who weren't on the team, who saw the same thing. That's what I heard, and it just so happened they told me right before I went on camera, so that was the first thing that was on my mind right before the camera came on. And I said that's what I heard and I think it just got blown up out of proportion."
Naturally, Merriman didn't name names.
Now that that's all cleared up, Merriman doesn't think the Chargers are going to be looking for any payback, especially since they won that game.
"It's going to be a physical game, and not because of what happened the first time," said Merriman, who led the Chargers with 12 1/2 sacks. "It's going to be a physical game because whoever loses goes home. I think there's more at stake now than it was four games ago."
And, he added, "We're going to all give each other hugs before the game starts."
That ought to be quite a sight.
Fisher apparently has gotten over it.
"I've been in this league a long time," Fisher said. "I'm all too familiar with the emotions of the game and the heat-of-battle type things. I just chalked it up as that. I voted for him for the Pro Bowl. He's a great player and it wasn't an intentional hit on our quarterback. A lot of things are said that I think often times are taken back. But he can speak for himself on that. I was not offended by it."
Merriman is an excitable sort. Nicknamed "Lights Out" for his punishing hits, he has a spasmodic sack dance and pretends to flip a switch that's tattooed on his forearm.
Young got over it, too.
"I wasn't really paying attention," he said. "It happened. It happened, so move on from it."
This isn't the first time this season Merriman has backtracked.
The last time the Chargers lost, Nov. 18 at Jacksonville, Merriman caused a stir when he questioned his teammates' commitment and said they needed a change of attitude.
Merriman's outburst gave the impression of a fractured locker room in Norv Turner's first season as coach.
He had just one tackle in that game and was knocked on his rear end by 5-foot-7 Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Merriman backed off the next day, saying he popped off while still steamed about the loss.
The Chargers have won six straight since, and 10 of 12 after their surprising 1-3 start.
Young left Sunday night's win at Indianapolis with an ailing right quadriceps, which will force the Chargers to prepare for both Young and backup Kerry Collins.
Some 1,000 tickets need to be sold by Thursday afternoon in order to lift the local TV blackout. ... Nate Kaeding's participation in practice was limited due to his bruised lower left leg, but Turner said the kicker is improving. Nonetheless, Turner plans to keep kickoff specialist Dave Rayner around as insurance.