Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Time To Step Up And Sit Down

Shawne Merriman is a tough guy.

He's so tough that he apparently is willing to risk his career as one of the best defensive players in the NFL, as well as his long-term health, to stand side-by-side with his teammates and try to capture that elusive Super Bowl ring.

Now that sounds noble and certainly proves Merriman's devotion to his teammates. However it also sounds like one of the worst ideas I've ever heard.

Not one, not two, not three, but four different doctors have told Merriman that he's risking career-ending injury by continuing to play on a knee that has tears in both the posterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments. That means he's putting himself at risk no matter what direction he tries to cut and run.

Last time I checked, running and cutting was a fairly important part of his job in chasing down quarterbacks and ball-carriers. Even if he is somehow able to move freely and endure the pain that those movements certainly bring him, lets not forget the linemen, tight ends and running backs who I doubt will stop and think about his knee before they try and cut him down on his way to the quarterback.

You can't begin to tell me that with his knee in the condition that it's in he can be anywhere near the caliber of player he expects himself to be. To me, his decision to continue playing is a selfish one in that in trying to prove how tough he is, he's actually hurting the defense as a unit.

There is an unwritten rule among football players that if you're hurt, you play. But if you're injured it's up to you to do what's best for your team. That is clearly something that Merriman will not do.

All that to say, the onus now is on the Chargers to cut Merriman off at the pass here. Beyond what a less-than-100% Merriman means to a defense built on speed and creating turnovers, the Chargers have a responsibility to protect the player from himself.

As far as I know no one is going to stop paying Merriman if he sits out this year. Sure he might lose out on a few bonuses for not making the Pro Bowl as well as other performance benchmarks, but they're not going to cut him.

So for the Chargers this comes down to protecting the health of one of their employees, something every organization in sports as well as business is supposed to do. If the Chargers allow Merriman to take the field this season and he does permanent damage to himself, they will share the blame evenly with Merriman himself for this unbelieveably poor decision.

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