By Tim Graham
He loved rubbing elbows with celebrities in Hollywood and Las Vegas. His very public and messy relationship with Tila Tequila was a sideshow. He appeared in music videos, pro wrestling events and television shows.
There's not much opportunity to maintain that "Lights Out" persona in Western New York, but Merriman claimed today he has made the lifestyle transition.
When the Bills claimed Merriman off waivers in 2010, an NFL executive told me Buffalo could turn out to be the right spot for Merriman.
"It might be the best thing to get him away from Hollywood, from San Diego, from the bright lights," the executive said. "In Buffalo it's all about football and only football. Maybe he will remember what football means to him."
Merriman, while speaking with reporters after this morning's walkthrough at St. John Fisher College, indicated that has happened to be the case. He was asked if he missed being a headliner.
"I used to miss it," Merriman said. "Not now so much, now that I am used to doing the things I'm accustomed to doing."
Merriman was the toast of Southern California when he exploded onto the scene as a rookie in 2005. He went to three straight Pro Bowls, racking up 39.5 sacks in that span as a dominant outside linebacker.
Now he's taking second-team reps as a 4-3 defensive end in his third season. He played only eight games the past two seasons, but he has expressed nothing but optimism about his recovery from Achilles surgery last year.
Merriman said "I'm still not where I want to be," but declared he intends to "be a game-changer" this year.
"We'll see," Merriman said. "You know, it's not about talking anymore about what I can do or what happened in the past or how good things were in the past. You just have to go out and do it, and that's all I've been concentrating on. ... It's just going out every day and working."