Linebacker Shawne Merriman is going from the beach to the snow belt, from sand and surf to ice and blizzards. Welcome to the Buffalo Bills.
Merriman, who was once criticized by San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith for being "too Hollywood," was claimed off waivers Tuesday by the Bills, a team with no victories, no hope and lots of snow. He can leave the sunglasses and sun screen at home.
One thing Buffalo will do is give Merriman a chance to reclaim a once-brilliant career that was knocked off course by injuries, including reconstructive knee surgery, and a four-game suspension in 2006 following a positive test for steroids (he claims it was a tainted supplement). He was also arrested before the start of the 2009 season after reality TV star Tila Tequila accused him of false imprisonment and battery at his San Diego-area home. He was never charged.
The fact is, Buffalo might be the best possible landing spot for Meriman, who is still only 26 but who needs a fresh start to put his past behind him. He sat out most of the Chargers' offseason workouts and a portion of training camp in protest over his contract, then was slowed by an Achilles tendon injury and a calf injury. He played in just three games, totaling five tackles and no sacks.
The Bills rank last in the league in rushing yards allowed per game and have given up four 200-yard rushing games this season. They have 11 sacks but not much of a pass rush. Think they could use a little help?
Merriman had 39½ sacks in his first three seasons with the Chargers but has managed just four in his past three, all of them coming in 2009. Because of injuries, he has played in only 18 games since 2008.
One reason the Bills picked up Merriman was because GM Buddy Nix was the Chargers' assistant general manager when the team drafted him in 2005 out of Maryland.
Now the two of them are back together. Merriman won't be able to salvage the season for the Bills, but he can show other teams that he's still got something left and can again be a dominant player.