Shawne Merriman didn't last one practice when the Buffalo Bills claimed him off waivers during the 2010 season. Merriman was placed on injured reserve, but that didn't stop the Bills from handing him a new two-year contract. Based on multiple accounts from training camp, that faith has seemingly been rewarded and Merriman is making a statement.
On Monday, Merriman plunged through a hole during the full team running session and blew up a play just as Fred Jackson was taking the handoff. Jackson was impressed.
"He’s back," asserted the Bills running back.
Jackson's not the only one who is saying the same thing. WGR's two Bills beat reporters have both said on separate occasions that Merriman has impressed them. On Monday, Paul Hamilton opined that Merriman "dominated," and on Tuesday, Joe Buscaglia said Merriman "shined for the third consecutive day".
While noticing that Merriman was "constantly in the backfield blowing up plays," Hamilton listed the former Charger's list of big plays from Monday.
"He blew up David Nelson on a play that got him to RB Fred Jackson. He got to Jackson from the edge so quickly he almost blew up the hand off. He got himself outside to stop a screen for a loss. He got to Ryan Fitzpatrick on one of the few times he threw as this practice was to concentrate on the run."
"It's felt good," said the linebacker. "I've been out a long time, so being out there with the guys on defense and getting the tempo back together again feels good. One of my goals was to come out here and do everything. It's going to take a lot of work, but I'm willing to put in that work to do it."
It was the same story, different day on Tuesday, as Buscaglia explained.
"On two consecutive plays, Merriman exerted his will on left tackle Demetrius Bell. On the first, Merriman blew right past Bell and tapped Fitzpatrick before he even finished his drop in to the pocket. On the second play, Merriman bull rushed Bell and pushed him all the way in to Fitzpatrick just as he was throwing the football."
Merriman is quick to caution that it's only training camp and the hits haven't started flying yet.
"I’ve been working," Merriman told BuffaloBills.com. "I’m not going to say I’m back, back yet because we still have a lot of time before we really have to slap on the pads and go against another team. But everyday I’m feeling a little bit better, and that’s all that’s important."
New Bills assistant Dave Wannstedt has been impressed in his limited exposure to Merriman.
"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," 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 is excited to be in Buffalo and excited to get back on the field. If he can return to his former glory, Bills fans should be pretty excited, too.
"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."