Making a statement that would be heard

You want a statement? Shawne Merriman could wrap up Defensive Player of the Year against the sorry Arizona Cardinals and fumble-prone Kurt Warner. Five sacks? Why not?

They've gone round and round, from one coast to another. Shawne Merriman having his say and Miami's Jason Taylor having his.

The Chargers end their most successful regular season in team history Sunday against the visiting Cardinals. What's been visited regularly this week is the controversy of Merriman being in contention, with Taylor, for the defensive player of the year award.

Merriman, who was selected to his second Pro Bowl, leads the NFL with 16 sacks. Taylor said Wednesday that he questioned whether someone who had been suspended should be eligible for such an award.

"He has a right to his opinion," Merriman said. "I've watched Jason Taylor for many years, and he's a great pass rusher and a great player. So he's entitled to his opinion.

"As for my suspension, I went about all the right things I was supposed to do in sitting out the four games."

Taylor said Thursday he's not standing on a steroids soap box.

"I never ripped Shawne Merriman to begin with," he said. "So whatever it's turned into now and whatever he's gotten from pieces of what I said yesterday is fine. I'm not here to rip Shawne Merriman. I'm not here to rip anybody, personally. It's not an attack on Shawne or anything like that. Shawne is one helluva a player. I said that yesterday and I'll say that forever.

"He is one of the top defensive players in this league and will be for a long time once all of us old guys are gone. It's got nothing to do with Shawne Merriman. It's the principle, it's more about a moral thing, I guess. The way this game was founded and the rules of the games and really the rules in our society were all I had comments about."

What Merriman is all about is changing games. In addition to his 16 sacks are four forced fumbles and an interception -- all in 11 games.

Game No. 12 comes Sunday, and another big day could make him the first Charger to lead the NFL in sacks.


Outside linebacker Karlos Dansby has played well in the second half of the season, making it obvious to everyone why the team missed him so much when he was injured early in the season.

Dansby has averaged almost nine tackles in the past seven games and has forced two fumbles. He has been asked to do a variety of tasks, including covering tight ends and backs, defending the run and rushing the passer.

With a rare combination of size, speed and agility, Dansby could be an accomplished NFL player if he stays healthy. That's been the question about him for all three of his NFL seasons.

He earned a spot in coach Dennis Green's doghouse by missing a considerable amount of offseason work with a variety of ailments, including a broken hand and a toe problem. He didn't practice at all during training camp and lost his starting job to Calvin Pace, a converted defensive end.

But as Dansby's health improved, he proved his value. The Cardinals have entertained extending Dansby's contract, which expires after the 2007 season.

That might be something they address this offseason.

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