Merriman swears he will be ready

San Diego Chargers first round pick Shawne Merriman is looking towards the home opener against Dallas with an eye towards playing. He is confident he will be on the field.

Fans, coaches and teammates have not gotten to see a whole lot of rookie linebacker Shawne Merriman through training camp and the preseason.

He was missed more than a few days now. He was banged up early in camp with a hamstring injury and then in San Francisco he injured his leg on the opening kickoff – before he got to play a down on defense in a game he was scheduled to see a significant amount of time.

This past week head coach Marty Schottenheimer mocked his linebacker for thinking he would play, saying, "I admire his optimism."

But when the official injury report comes out this week, Merriman expects to see his name no worse than probable.

"At first he thought two weeks – meaning two weeks from when it happened – which was in the San Francisco game and got all bundled up in the timing, but I will be ready," Merriman swore.

In what capacity?

Merriman is switching positions and may have needed some preseason time more than any other player on the team. Dropping into coverage is definitely something he must master if he hopes to supplant Ben Leber in the lineup.

"He has the power and the speed," Schottenheimer explained. "What happens is with uncertainty nobody can play to the speed they have because the mind is not tuned in."

What he does not need help with, however, is rushing the passer.

Merriman is a realist. He knows he is behind in his learning curve.

While he has the playbook memorized, but he does not have the game experience with the 3-4 defense as a member of the Chargers, meaning responsibilities may get lost as he familiarizes himself with the nuances of the defense.

"Things happen so quick and if you can't adjust the play will go right by you and you won't know it is there," said Merriman.

Shaun Phillips may get the nod in pass rush situations over Merriman or they could both see the field with Merriman lining up at end, a spot he is more familiar with. Based on the few snaps he has taken in the preseason, the rookie linebacker appears to have that innate ability to make plays in the backfield.

How much time he will see on the field, if any, is still up to the head coach.

"He is making good progress," Schottenheimer said. "Will he see the field? I don't know."

When he does get on the field as a member of the defense, Merriman has two goals:

"Get to the quarterback," he said. "Really, contribute in any way I can."

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