Chargers welcome Merriman back

The Chargers embraced Shawne Merriman on Monday, the first day he was able to visit the team facility after testing positive for steroids.

Merriman, the NFL defensive rookie of the year in 2005, was sidelined for four games after failing a drug test. Merriman had 8.5 sacks before being penalized and appeared on his way to his second Pro Bowl invitation in as many years.

Now that Merriman is back, one of the NFL's top defenses will be that much better as it heads for Buffalo this weekend.

"I always feel that I have 100 percent love for the game," Merriman said. "But when you are taken away from it, you are that much more hungrier, and it's hard to believe. I have more hunger than I did before because when they take away the game from you, you really understand what the game is about."

Merriman looked fit and fresh after a month off. The Chargers missed his game-changing presence, but the team did go 4-0 when he was sidelined.

"Not to say we didn't miss him, but we did all we could do," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "We couldn't do anything more than win four, and we got that done.

"But he will certainly lend a hand in keeping this roll going and winning games. He's going to be fresh, that is for sure. He will be fresh and ready to go, and I'm sure his mind-set will be trying to make up for lost time, especially this week."

Merriman adds fuel to a defense that had five sacks in Sunday's win over the Raiders and leads the NFL with 41.

Merriman was docked about $73,000 in base salary and missed four of the most thrilling games the Chargers had played in recent memory.

"It's a hard less to learn, no doubt about it," Merriman said. "I took it on the chin, that's what I did, take it on the chin."

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