Shawne Merriman chats with The Scores Report

Five years ago, Shawne Merriman burst onto the NFL scene as a rookie by racking up 10 sacks, 57 tackles and two forced fumbles. Over the next two seasons, he went on to register 29.5 more quarterback takedowns and emerged as the face of a fast, aggressive Chargers’ defense that was gaining attention throughout the league.

But during training camp in 2008, Merriman had trouble practicing on his injured knee. Initial reports stated that recovery would only take a few weeks, but soon rumors would circulate that his career could be finished. After discovering that he had a tear in his posterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament, he underwent massive reconstructive surgery and wound up sitting out virtually the entire ’08 season. After using the first six games to get his timing and rhythm back, Shawne produced back-to-back double-digit sack games in 2009 and although a plantar fasciitis injury limited him down the stretch, opponents still had to be aware of where he was at all times.

Shawne recently took time out of his busy offseason to chat with us about a variety of topics, ranging from his future with the Chargers (he’s currently a restricted free agent), who he modeled his game after growing up and what the Bolts have to do in order to reach the Super Bowl. He also filled us in on how he got the nickname “Lights Out” and what the hardest hit he ever laid on a ballcarrier was.

After reading the interview, make sure to check out Shawne’s Twitter page as well as his website,

The Scores Report: Hey Shawne, how are you?

Shawne Merriman: Anthony, what’s up man – what’s going on?

TSR: Nothing much, I was just watching re-runs of The Office as I waited for your call.

SM: Awe, how funny is that?

TSR: (Laughs) You an Office fan?

SM: Oh, it’s hilarious.

TSR: Yeah, I just watched the episode where Michael drives his car in a lake.

SM: (Laughs) Yeah!

TSR: (Laughs) Hey, how’s the offseason going?

SM: It’s actually going pretty good, I just started working out about a week and a half ago. I always take a good three weeks to a month off after the season to let everything heal back up. So yeah, I just started up again.

TSR: How’s the foot?

SM: It’s good. During the season you don’t have that time to rest and plantar fasciitis takes a few weeks of doing nothing to heal, you know, not running on it or anything. There’s really no rehab for it, so it was tough playing with it but I’m glad it’s done and over with.

TSR: For sure. I remember when Tim Duncan was dealing with that injury a couple years ago and it affected him throughout the entire season.

SM: It’s one of the worst things possible because you can’t do anything about it and you just have to ice it and stay off of it. I’m sure he described that injury well and he obviously knew exactly how it felt.

TSR: I always ask this question to defensive players that I interview and I’m really interested to hear your answer: What’s the hardest hit you ever laid on a quarterback or ballcarrier?

SM: The hardest hit I ever…well, the hardest hit I ever laid on anybody was Priest Holmes – he caught it bad my rookie year. I caught him coming back into me. He didn’t see me and I knocked him out.

TSR: (Laughs)

SM: That was the hardest hit on a running back.

TSR: What about a quarterback?

SM: On a quarterback? It was probably…who was the quarterback, it wasn’t Trent Green for the Chiefs…who was the quarterback for them my second year? I beat the tackle so clean off the edge…what was that quarterback’s name…

TSR: A couple years ago for the Chiefs?

SM: Yeah?

TSR: Oh man, they’ve had so many over the past couple years. I’m pretty sure Trent Green was still there.

SM: (Laughs) Exactly. Well, whomever it was I put it on him bad. I beat the tackle so clean coming around and I just got him good.

TSR: Nice! Well, not nice for whomever it was, but nice for you. In high school you got the nickname “Lights Out”, correct?

SM: Right.

TSR: As the story goes, you knocked out four guys in one half?

SM: (Laughs) It was three guys in one half and one in the second half on an onsides kick. The guy went over to get the ball and I just knocked him out.

TSR: I’m pretty sure I know the answer to this, but when you were in high school or college did you ever model your game after a specific NFL player? Who did you like watching while growing up?

SM: Well when I was growing up, (Lawrence Taylor) was the guy I think all outside pass rushers followed. But I followed a bunch of guys, you know, Reggie White, Cornelius Bennett, Derrick Thomas and people that came off the edge a lot. I actually met LaVar Arrington my freshman year of high school and because we used to work out and do other stuff together, he kind of took me under his wing when I first got into the league. My second year of high school I met Ray Lewis and both of those guys just really took care of me ever since.

TSR: Your first two years in the league you posted double-digit sacks and were arguably the centerpiece of the Chargers’ defense. After injuries took their toll the past two years, do you feel as though the team is transitioning away from you or do you still feel that they view you as the focal point?

SM: Well, it’s one of those things that when people say my numbers were down over the past two years, you have to understand that I only played one game last year. Somebody asked me about a week and a half ago about my numbers over the past two years and I said, well, in 2008 I didn’t play. I missed the entire year. So, of course my numbers aren’t going to be there unless I figured out a way to rack some up sitting on the bench or in rehab. But as far as this year goes, I was pretty happy because I started getting stronger and stronger throughout the year. And the last six or seven games I started to feel like myself and by the time the season ended, I felt like I was all the way back. You know, I got a chance for my foot to rest up a little bit and kind of got my legs back under me again. I felt good.

TSR: Yeah, for those that followed you it was easy to see that you started to get your rhythm back after the first six or seven games. At one point, you posted back-to-back double-digit sack games and then the plantar fasciitis limited you down the stretch. How frustrating was it to get on a roll and then have another injury slow you down?

SM: It was really frustrating because that’s when I started getting to where I felt comfortable again. Any time you take a year off of doing anything, your timing and coordination is going to be off and that’s how it was when I first got back into it. But like I said, around that seventh or eighth game I started to feel like myself again and when it got closer to the end of the year even though I was dealing with the plantar fasciitis, my body was feeling great. So when that kind of calmed down, I was feeling good and started to make some things happen.

TSR: For sure.

SM: Even through the whole process, I was still disruptive. I don’t get too much action coming right at me and I face a lot of double-teams, which I think sometimes people forget. You know, whenever you have somebody that’s dominant like that, offensive coordinators game plan against you. I remember talking to the offensive coordinator for the Eagles after the game and he told me that he wanted to make sure that I didn’t hit Donovan. You know, they would chip off the edge and they were doing so many different things because they wanted to make sure that I didn’t get close to him. It was like that a lot during the year, where I would see the back chipping off the edge or a tight end staying in so I would have two guys to match up against. I faced a lot of that kind of stuff.

TSR: Yeah, you hear that all the time when some people criticize a cornerback for not having a lot of interceptions, but what they don’t realize is that teams are just flat out staying away from them. And it happens with defenders at all positions.

SM: Oh yeah, absolutely. When you’ve got a guy like that and his numbers are down, it’s not because he’s not doing his job – it’s just that people are afraid to test him. There were games last year when I got one run to me on my side and that would be it.

TSR: You’re a restricted free agent this offseason. Have you had any talks with the Chargers about a new contract?

SM: No, not yet. I think a lot of stuff for teams happens over the next three weeks or so, you know, when the combine and a lot of stuff starts. I love where I’m at – I love San Diego period. I love the fans and my teammates and I’ve told them I want to remain here. But at the same time, you only control the things you can control and whatever happens from this point on is going to happen.

TSR: That was going to be my next question – do you see yourself being in San Diego long term?

SM: I have no clue. I would love to wear a Bolt for the rest of my career, period. I think that’s possible, but whether that will happen or not I don’t know. At the same time, I’m just ready to get back out there and play a full, healthy season of football.


on if he sees himself being in San Diego long term…

“I have no clue. I would love to wear a Bolt for the rest of my career, period. I think that’s possible, but whether that will happen or not I don’t know. At the same time, I’m just ready to get back out there and play a full, healthy season of football.”


TSR: If you do wind up testing the free agent market at some point, is there another team out there that’s a fit for you or are you not even thinking about that?

SM: Yeah, I’m not even thinking about that. That would be so far down the road over the next month or so and whether or not the CBA is going to get done. There are seven or eight different options and variables going into this offseason so whatever happens, happens.

TSR: The Chargers have made the postseason four years straight, but still no Super Bowl appearance. What’s keeping this team from getting to the next level?

SM: You know, I just think it’s the ability to finish. Winning 11 games and doing some of the things we have, you know, from starting off 2-3 and finishing up the season the way we did, every team can’t do that. That just shows you what we have in the locker room and how good the team is; we’re going to be there one day, there’s no question about it. And once we get there, we’re going to know what that feeling is like and take the steps necessary to get back there again.

TSR: 2009 first round pick Larry English was a great pass-rusher at Northern Illinois. Were you able to take him under your wing this year and teach him what the NFL is all about? Were you able to work with him at all?

SM: Oh yeah, I spent a lot of time with him from day one when he came in. You know, I just did a lot of things that the older guys did for me when I came into the league. I think a lot of people thought that there was going to be a competition thing there and you know, it’s still a competition but it’s a competition within each other. I’m going to go out there and push everyone to work as hard as they possibly can – run faster, jump higher and everything else. That’s just part of what I do – I like the whole competition part of it. So when he came in, I just took him in and showed him what I know so that he could be the best player he could possibly be.

TSR: It’s interesting that you say that Shawne, because the media likes to make a big deal out of situations like that. When he was drafted last year, the buzz was about oh, here’s a guy that’s going to replace Shawne Merriman. But you, and other players in your shoes, don’t look at it that way. You look at the situation as hey, he’s a teammate now and we’re going to do this thing together.

SM: Absolutely, because I believe that competition is healthy. I wake up every day to compete and I don’t get threatened by anybody or anything like that. My job was to get him to be as good as he could possibly be so when I came off for a couple of plays, or when he came in for Shaun Phillips, he’s able to provide a pass rush. That’s what they brought him in for and if he goes out there and performs well, then we all succeed. And that’s how I look at it. I don’t want to fuss or pout about who got drafted for who or whatever the case is. I know what my ability is, I know what I can do and nobody makes me feel that kind of threat.

TSR: Shawne, you’ve been a pleasure. I won’t keep you much longer, but what’s your prediction for next year for not only the Chargers, but for yourself as well?

SM: We’ll see, because I want to have a fully healthy offseason. You have to remember that before the season started I was only eight or nine months out of reconstructive surgery so everything was a slow process to get back into it and getting back right again. I’m healthy and strong and feeling better than I ever have. So, I’m excited to see what the season will hold and how everything is going to play out.

TSR: I wish you nothing but the best of luck, man. Stay healthy, get a new contract and have plenty of success next year.

SM: All right, I appreciate it – thanks.

TSR: Thank you.

Special thanks to Lindsey Deierling of EAG Sports Management for setting up the interview.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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