Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman walked off the practice field in a full sweat and full of optimism. He said he participated fully in practice and has been cleared by doctors for full participation this spring.
"It felt great, just walking out there with the guys," Merriman said. "I’ve been here the whole entire offseason. Every day. Working with the guys full on. Just doing everything my teammates are doing. That just made me happy, because theyse guys never got a chance to see me go out and really work. I came in the middle of the year (in 2010), then we had the lockout (in 2011). This was the first offseason I got a a chance to actually have a full offseason in three years."
Merriman visited Dr. James Andrews on Tuesday to get his Achilles tendon checked out. Andrews is the renowned orthopedic surgeon based in Birmingham, Ala., who operated on Merriman's problem Achilles in early November. It has been seven months since the surgery. Merriman did not rupture the Achilles. He said Andrews went in to repair tears and "clean up" the tendon area. He called it a six-month injury.
"I'm glad they went in and did it when they did," Merriman said. "If they didn’t who knows? It could have been one of those things that would be much tougher to come back from."
Merriman had 39.5 sacks in his first three seasons in the league. He has just six over the past four seasons. He has missed most of three of those campaigns. He played the first five games of last season for the Bills before going on the injured-reserve list.
Said Merriman: "It was a hard three years when you’re dealing with something like the Achilles and you don’t know whether to go get something done. You’re a game-time decision. You don’t know if you can practice. You’re in pain. You can’t go out there and play the way you can play. I just felt that I was in a position that I couldn’t go out and perform. I couldn’t go out and do the things I do best. I couldn’t explode. So what people have seen from the last three years wasn’t Shawne Merriman. It was a guy going out and trying his best for what I had at the time."