Merriman vs. Ware: Round one

Demarcus Ware versus Shawne Merriman – at least that is the internal hype that these two players will have following them for the next few years as members of the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers, respectively.

The San Diego Chargers had resigned themselves to the fact that Shawne Merriman would not be available when they picked in the first round, 12th overall. The Cowboys had apparently earmarked the Maryland product as their selection.

Merriman and Demarcus Ware each had pre-draft visits with San Diego but it was Merriman or moving in another direction for the Chargers.

They had handpicked a receiver at that spot, not believing Merriman would be on the board.

Then a crazy thing happened on the way to the podium. The Cowboys selected Ware, leaving Merriman on the board for the "Merry" Bolts.

After the draft, there would be talk of the Boys knowing something. . .Merriman would change agents. . .Would he ever sign?. . .

"There were anxious moments, then Dallas made a choice and we ended up with the individual we were looking to get," said San Diego head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

"I'm happy to be a Charger now," said Merriman. "To have that thunderbolt on the side of my head makes me very proud."

Ware, out of Troy State, feels the same about Dallas.

"This was the team that I wanted to go to initially," said Ware. "I have a lot of Dallas Cowboy fans in my family and it really means a lot to them and it really means a lot to me. I grew up living Dallas Cowboys and it really means a lot to me to be picked by Dallas."

Sure he missed minicamp, sparking debate about the choice and further fueling the fire that Dallas passed him for a reason.

But Merriman ended up signing quicker than most people thought and was in camp in time to make a difference.

The biggest difference after contracts were settled has been the work they have put in for their respective teams during the preseason.

Merriman has been in on 19 plays during the preseason, notching a tackle for a loss and being the first man to touch the quarterback after St. Louis quarterback Jeff Smoker fell down (not officially a sack).

The rookie linebacker sprained his left knee covering the opening kickoff on August 26 and is now listed as probable for Sunday.

Schottenheimer holds the fate of Merriman in his hands, not willing to commit whether he will play.

"I thought he was a good player, no doubt about it," Dallas head coach Bill Parcells said. "I like Merriman. I think he can rush the passer. I thought they both were very good players.

"I think we could have been fine with either one. I think had we taken Merriman, San Diego would have taken Ware.

Ware made his mark in the preseason and earned a lot of positive attention for his play. He had a sack, two forced fumbles, an interception, and a fumble recovery in one game against Seattle on the Monday night stage. The Cowboys have been ecstatic about his progress.

"I liked him very much," said Schottenheimer. "I saw some Derrick Thomas in him.

"We had several people, including the gentleman we drafted, Shawne Merriman, in a group there. Demarcus was in and visited us. Terrific young man – an outstanding young player. I thought he was mature which was very important."

The comparisons between the two will likely go on for years. With Ware firmly entrenched in the starting lineup and Merriman uncertain status for Sunday, the advantage seems to be with Dallas right now.

But the season has yet to start and one rookie season does not make a career.

Whether the first matchup will showcase both players' talents awaits the Sunday kickoff at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

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