Bills Place LB Shawne Merriman on IR

Merriman, who earned the nickname “Lights Out” when he was one of the NFL’s most feared players, was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday because of a right Achilles’ tendon injury. It’s the same injury that forced the Bills to place him on IR last November after they signed him as a free agent following his release from the San Diego Chargers.

“Shawne has worked extremely hard, but unfortunately his Achilles flared back up and it doesn’t appear that he will be able to return to the field anytime soon,” Bills general manager Buddy Nix said in a statement released by the team Tuesday. “We felt it was in the best interest of our team and for Shawne to put him on IR.”

After being bothered by a nagging shoulder injury for the past month, Merriman’s Achilles suddenly became a problem on the Thursday before the Bills’ 27-24 loss to the New York Giants. Merriman missed that game, but he expressed confidence that he’d be able to return and not miss any significant time when the Bills came back from the bye.

“I’m expecting it to hold up well and bounce back and do what I need to do,” the 27-year-old told the Associated Press last week. “I’m feeling a lot better than I did a week ago as of right now. It’s going to be a work in progress. Personally for me, it’s about peaking at the right time, and this bye week has been perfect for me.”

But the Achilles didn’t make as much progress as the Bills had hoped, and it’s left them with a severe dent in a pass rush that’s generated only four sacks this season. Coach Chan Gailey and several players spoke last week about the need to pressure the quarterback to take the heat off Buffalo’s defensive backfield, which has allowed 300-plus yards passing three times already this season.

Overall, Buffalo ranks 31st in total defense.

“I think we just need to keep finetuning the things that we’re not doing well,” Gailey said. “I think what we’re doing is good, but I think we’re not doing it very well. We’re playing hard, we’re not playing better.”

Merriman’s season was average at best, mostly due to his inability to stay healthy. After recording a pair of sacks in Buffalo’s preseason opener against Chicago, he hurt his right knee in practice. That kept him out of two preseason games.

He then hurt his shoulder in Week 2 against Oakland, and the Bills began to monitor both his playing and practice time. That basically made him a part-time player.

Nix has always been a big believer in Merriman after previously working in the Chargers front office when they made Merriman their first pick (12th overall) in the 2005 draft. Hoping Merriman could rekindle some of his past glory with a Bills defense that was in desperate need of a pass-rushing specialist, Nix re-signed Merriman to a two-year deal just a day before Buffalo’s 2010 season finale at the New York Jets.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Merriman finishes the season with nine tackles, one sack and five games. Coming into the season, he had 43 1/2 sacks in 60 career games — but only four sacks from 2008-10 when his production was slowed by injuries.

He missed most of the 2008 season after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery, and after sitting out most of the 2010 offseason workouts and part of training camp to protest his contract status, he was slowed by an Achilles’ tendon injury and then a calf injury before being released.

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Lights Out: Bills LB Merriman Feeling Rejuvenated

“I didn’t see him coming,” Jackson said Tuesday, recalling what happened a day earlier during a Buffalo Bills full-team session at training camp.

Had this been a game, Jackson knows he would’ve been flattened. Fortunately, this was practice, and Jackson got away with being on the receiving end of a two-hand shove that still knocked him back a few steps.

What’s unmistakable to Jackson regarding Merriman is quite simple: “He’s back.”

Indeed, he just might be. Five days into camp in suburban Rochester, Merriman is starting to look and feel like his old self again.

Lights out?

“Almost,” Merriman said with a wink upon mention of the “Lights Out” nickname he picked up early in his career when he was one of the NFL’s fiercest hitters. “I’m not going to say I’m back-back yet because we still have a lot of time before we really have to strap on the pads and go. But every day I’m feeling a little bit better.”

That’s good news for Merriman, who had been slowed by a series of injuries and distracted by contract squabbles and off-the-field questions for much of the past three years. And it’s significant news for the Bills, who last November took a gamble on the three-time Pro Bowl selection by claiming him off waivers after being released by San Diego.

Last year, Merriman lasted no more than 15 minutes in his first Bills practice before he came up limping, hobbled by a sore right Achilles’ tendon that led to him being placed on injured reserve.

This year, after being re-signed to a two-year contract on Jan. 1, Merriman hasn’t missed a minute.

“To be quite honest with you, two months ago, I don’t think anybody, maybe not even Shawne, had a vision of where he wanted to be and what he could do. We didn’t,” assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt said. “Was it going to be just walkthroughs, was it going to be half-speed tempo? And the guy has done everything that every other player on this field has done. That’s been a real positive.”

Merriman benefited from the extended layoff that came with the 4-1/2-month NFL lockout. Though he worked out on his own, the time off gave his body an opportunity to heal.

Part of his regimen included a six-week stint of training with retired MMA stars Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell.

“I got leaner, dropped a couple of pounds. And it’s helping me move a little better, too,” Merriman said.

Now that he’s healthy, he’s also regained his drive to return to his once dominating form and help transform the Bills into winners.

“I’ve even more committed to rebuilding this thing and doing what these guys need me to do,” Merriman said. “I know exactly why they brought me here.”

The Bills took a chance on Merriman to help improve a patchwork defense that last year couldn’t stop the run and had difficulty generating pressure. Buffalo finished in a three-way tie for 27th in the league with 27 sacks last year.

Merriman had more than half that number in 2006, when he had 17. That was in the midst of his heyday, when Merriman registered 39-1/2 sacks in his first three seasons.

Injuries caught up to him, as he’s managed four sacks and appeared in just 18 games over the past three years. He played in only one game in 2008, when he had reconstructive knee surgery, and played sparingly in six games last year with the Chargers.

Calling this the healthiest he’s felt in a long time, Merriman has a bounce in his step.

“Just being back on the field and doing something that I love to do for a living, that’s why I can’t stop smiling every day,” Merriman said. “I’m one of the most playful guys over there in the huddle, even though I’m a vet.”

Fellow linebacker Reggie Torbor has taken notice.

“He kind of reminds me of a rookie. His eyes are wide open,” Torbor said. “He had the pedal to the floor and it’s really impressive and contagious.”

Merriman insists he has nothing to prove to his critics or anyone else except his teammates.

“I know personally that I can play. You can look on the film and see me playing,” Merriman said. “But to be a factor to the point where these guys are going to benefit from me playing at my best, that’s what I need to prove.”

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Bills LB Merriman Out Indefinitely

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. A nagging injury is preventing linebacker Shawne Merriman from getting off on the right foot with his new team, the .

Coach Chan Gailey announced Thursday that Merriman will not play against Detroit (2-6) this weekend, and is out indefinitely after aggravating an injury to his right Achilles’ tendon in his first practice a day earlier.

The injury occurred early into Merriman’s first practice with the winless Bills (0-8), a week after he was claimed off waivers from San Diego. The injury is also to the same tendon that’s been bothering him for much of the past year.

“It’s short-term more than long-term, but we’ll just wait and see,” Gailey said. “We’ll see what happens next week, or it might be the next, I don’t know. We’re going to get him well. That’s the most important thing. Let’s get him well before we put him on the field.”

Merriman was hurt early into practice during an individual non-contact drill. After dropping back, Merriman pivoted to his left when he pulled up and began hopping in pain. After consulting with trainers, the player limped off the field and escorted into the team’s training facility.

Though he missed practice on Thursday, Merriman was at the facility receiving treatment but did not make himself available to reporters.

The injury is the latest setback for a once-feared pass rusher who earned the nickname “Lights Out” for his hard-hitting style in San Diego.

After registering 39½ sacks in his first three NFL seasons, Merriman’s managed just four in his past three years. He missed most of the 2008 season after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery.

His career in San Diego effectively ended last month when the placed him on injured reserve because of a left calf injury. Merriman had also complained about an injury to his Achilles’ tendon.

Merriman did pass a physical upon reporting to the Bills last weekend. And he was in street clothes on the Bills sideline, watching Buffalo’s 22-19 loss to Chicago at Toronto on Sunday.

On Monday, Merriman said he’s been working out the past few weeks, but didn’t know if he was in “football shape” yet. He was eager to begin playing.

“Whatever they want me to do, I’m there,” Merriman said. “We’re all on the same page in getting ready to go play football.”

The Bills were counting on Merriman’s pass-rush ability to spark a defense that’s had difficulty pressuring opposing quarterbacks. The lack of pressure is being blamed on Buffalo managing a league-worst one interception this season, a year after finishing second with 28.

“It’s not good,” linebacker Paul Posluszny said, when informed of Merriman’s status following practice. “It’s the opposite of good.”

In claiming Merriman, the Bills picked up the remainder of the player’s one-year $3.27 million contract.

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