Monday, August 20, 2012

Nix: Merriman move about circumstance, not health


Shawne Merriman said he was in the best shape he's ever been in earlier this offseason, and the Buffalo Bills had his back.

But nothing is certain in the NFL.

The Bills released the veteran pass-rushing specialist Monday in a move that Bills general manager Buddy Nix said was about giving younger players an opportunity and not about Merriman's health, which has been a repeated issue for Merriman over the last half dozen years.

"Shawne was battling for the fourth defensive end spot," Nix told the media Monday. "We have three guys there that we feel good about. We have a couple of young guys. That is the reason we made the move.

"The 'why now' is a couple of things. One, we want to give these two young guys more reps in practice and more playing time in these last two games. Two, we want to give Shawne a chance to get a job. Us doing it earlier gives Shawne a better chance to get picked up and locked on to somebody."

Merriman reportedly looked good in spring practices, but he'd been working with the second-team defense and was mostly a third-stringer in the team's most recent preseason game, an exhibition bout with the Minnesota Vikings last Friday.

"I think he struggled a little. But first off, let me say this—he can play. He did everything," Nix continued. "He has been healthy since OTAs. He had not missed anything. He is very attentive in meetings. He has worked hard at practice and he has played, in spots, really well during the games.

"He is a hard worker; he has done everything he could do. We think we have been patient but there comes a point where we felt like we needed to move on and look down the road. These young guys will get a shot."

Buffalo claimed Merriman in November of 2010 after he was dropped by the San Diego Chargers, but he finished the season on injured reserve. He also finished 2011 on injured reserve.

Merriman established himself as one of the elite linebackers in the NFL in the mid-2000s, having recorded 39.5 sacks as a Charger from 2005-2007. However, the injury-riddled defender has tallied only five quarterback-takedowns since.

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