Does Merriman fear the Hardwick treatment?

Chargers fans hoping for good news on the Shawne Merriman front suffered another disappointment on Saturday when it was reported that Merriman has tears in both his PCL and LCL. The man known as "Lights Out" is still pondering his options and would be wise to consider the case of one of his teammates before making a final decision.

Shawne Merriman has informed both of the major San Diego-area newspapers, the Union Tribune and the North County Times, that he has tears in both his PCL and LCL. Merriman is still considering the best course of treatment, of which three options are available: 1) rehab the injury and play through the pain, possibly risking further injury; 2) undergo minor surgery to mend the tears, which would likely cause him to miss four to six weeks; or 3) have reconstructive knee surgery, which would force him to miss the entire season.

The Chargers, for obvious reasons, would prefer Merriman choose No. 1. If nothing else, the team is using all of its powers of persuasion to prevent him from selecting No. 3, which would deliver a huge blow to the Bolts' Super Bowl hopes.

However, Merriman may be wary of heeding any self-serving advice. After all, it was just last season that a foot specialist told Nick Hardwick that his foot injury was just a minor tweak and that he could do no further harm by playing on it, according to a report by the Union Tribune.


LB Shawne Merriman
Donald Miralle/Getty

Hardwick came back after a four-game absence and played through the pain for the final nine games of the season. After the season, Hardwick learned that his injury had been originally misdiagnosed and that he had a severe foot sprain. He underwent surgery in March and is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season.

As is always the case, teams want their star players to play through the pain. The Bolts will appeal to the competitor in Merriman, just as they did with Hardwick, to try to get him on the field as soon as possible.

Head Coach Norv Turner appears optimistic Merriman will be in the starting lineup on opening day. It remains to be seen if that is because Turner is confident Merriman will be healthy enough to play, or if Turner's statement is a means of pressuring Merriman into playing through the injury.

Merriman is going to make a decision in his own best interests. He is two seasons away from unrestricted free agency and wants to position himself for a massive contract, be it from the Chargers or someone else. If he feels that undergoing reconstructive surgery now will allow him to come back healthy in his contract year -- and in the five or six years that follow -- that is what he will likely do.

More likely, he and the Chargers will find a compromise that gets him onto the field at some point in 2008. The last thing Merriman wants is to be known as the next Jeremy Shockey. If Merriman misses the 2008 season and the Chargers go on to win the Super Bowl without him, that's exactly what will happen.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.


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