So Shawne Merriman says he wants to play football. On a mangled knee, one that could cave in on him at anytime, according to doctors. One that could ruin his football forever.
But that doesn’t mean that San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner has to play Merriman.
It won’t happen, of course, but Turner could play the ultimate trump card — his decision as to who plays and who doesn’t — and keep Merriman, the young, prized linebacker, on the sidelines when the regular season opens on Sunday. That’s pretty much all that can be done at this point to prevent a 24-year-old from sabotaging his own future.
Merriman has been diagnosed with a tear in his lateral collateral ligament as well as a grade-three tear of his posterior collateral ligament in his left knee. Four doctors, four of them, have all recommended that Merriman have surgery forthwith, thus meaning he’d miss the entire 2008 season. Projected recovery time for such a surgery is estimated to be about six months or so.
I’m surmising that the only reasons Merriman got four medical opinions are: a) the first three didn’t tell him what he wanted to hear, and b) the fifth wasn’t likely to, either. So he stopped while he was behind, at four.
It’s the old adage about there being a difference between being heroic and brave, and being just plain dumb.
There’s no telling the heights Merriman can attain in the NFL. It’s not exaggerating to suggest that he could, once retired, go down as one of the Top 5 greatest defensive players in league history.
But not if he wrecks his career before his 25th birthday. Then he goes down as a cautionary tale — a poster child for listening to what the doctor tells you.
I’m not sure what Merriman is trying to prove here. That he’s tough? As far as I’m concerned, all who set foot on an NFL field are tough. Stand on a sideline and watch — and LISTEN — to the hitting that goes on, with the 120 or so train wrecks that occur in any given game, and you won’t ever again question toughness. Now, there are levels of it, for sure. Some have higher thresholds for pain, for example, than others. But there are no cowards on that field.
Is he trying to prove his commitment and desire? With four doctors saying, “SURGERY”, I don’t think opting for surgery would mean you’re any less committed to the cause. If anything, it shows that you have long-term thinking in mind, which is better for the team, ultimately.
Is he being motivated by money or outside influences? It wouldn’t appear to be so. I’d hate to think that there are those within the Chargers organization who are pressuring him to play in the face of such disturbing medical findings. And if Merriman doesn’t have the spine to tell those types to go screw themselves, then that’s a sad commentary, too.
Merriman says that his decision to play is, simply, because he’s a football player and that he’s “stubborn as hell” — his words. He says that if you give a football player the option to play, then he’s going to play.
Two things about that flawed statement. One, who’s giving him the option to play? The reports scream DON’T PLAY. If playing is an option, it’s kind of like the option you have to put your hand in boiling water on the stove. Sure, you can do it — no one is preventing you, but … why? Second, if you polled the players in the league, I’d be shocked if even 1 in 4 would opt to play given such a medical diagnosis.
If this was the week leading up to the Super Bowl, then maybe that’s a different deal. I can understand the temptation to “leave it all out there” for the sake of 60 minutes that could crown you as a champion. But sources say that if Merriman goes through with his threat to start the season, the chances of him finishing it are very slim. The wounded knee is like an expanding balloon that could go “pop” at any moment.
Merriman acknowledges that he’s going to have surgery. It’s just going to be later, rather than sooner. How much later? Nobody knows for sure. Could be next week, if the knee goes pop on Opening Day. Could be in October. And yes, it could be as late as the end of the season, if he survives it, slim chances and all. But even if he makes it through the season, there’s no telling what additional damage he may have done to the knee, thus possibly turning a six-month recovery into a 12-month one, or even longer. If he recovers at all.
There’s no sadder story in professional sports than the one about the guy who never reached his potential because of injury. Or foolishness.
Shawne Merriman says he is “stubborn as hell.” If he chooses to play, I’d substitute another word for stubborn that also begins with “stu”. But that’s just me.