On Tuesday, Buffalo Bills defensive end Shawne Merriman was one of just two players not present at One Bills Drive for the start of the team's voluntary OTAs. That's because, as head coach Chan Gailey would later explain, Merriman was visiting with his doctor to get final medical clearance to participate.
As it turns out, Merriman got that clearance, and tweeted about it late Tuesday afternoon. It's looking like he'll be on the field when the team returns to the practice field on Thursday.
Merriman is coming off of in-season Achilles surgery that landed him on Injured Reserve last October, limiting his season to just five games. That means that he's appeared in five of a possible 24 games since joining the Bills as a waiver wire addition in the middle of the 2010 season. He's been the subject of rave reviews regarding his health this off-season, and his return to the field in May is a step in the right direction.
We're interested to see what Merriman's return to the practice field does to the defensive end rotation. It's unlikely that he'll unseat either of the team's two current starters, Mario Williams and Chris Kelsay. Mark Anderson will be a mainstay on the second unit (unless he and Kelsay split reps there), so Merriman could push Spencer Johnson out of the other spot with that unit.
Johnson could then move down to third-team defensive end, where he'd be part of a rotation. Or he could kick inside and play defensive tackle, his more natural position, either with the first team (in place of Dwan Edwards) or with the second team (in place of either Kellen Heard or Alex Carrington).