The news is very good for Bills linebacker
“I’m going to be right out there with the rest of the guys on the practice field at camp,” Merriman told Buffalobills.com. “I’m cleared. I really don’t have any restrictions. I’m happy to have that no restriction part. It’s just about getting out there and going.”
Merriman said the only thing that will make his situation different from other players is how many days he will practice consecutively. There may be an extra rest day or two for the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker.
Bills GM Buddy Nix picked Merriman up off waivers in the middle of the 2010 season after he was released by the San Diego Chargers, who apparently had enough of the recurring injuries that had kept Merriman off the field.
In his first practice with the Bills last fall he strained his Achilles 15 minutes into the workout and did not suit up for Buffalo at all in 2010. Come the end of the season however, Bills head athletic trainer Bud Carpenter came up with a solution to fix what had become a chronic problem for Merriman the past two seasons.
“He used shockwave therapy,” said Merriman. “I had a lot of scar tissue built up in my Achilles and it hampered my flexibility and explosion. The shockwave therapy broke up the scar tissue similar to how doctors treat kidney stones to break those up. Once we got rid of the scar tissue I had to let it heal and slowly work my way back.”
After the treatment Merriman was in an immobilizer boot for a month. That was followed by flexibility and range of motion exercises. By March he was on the treadmill walking. By April he was jogging. Full blown workouts began in May.
“There was no more fighting it and trying to battle through things,” said Merriman. “It was one of those things where you had to fix the exact problem and give it time. You couldn’t force your way through an Achilles injury, so I feel good now.”
The pass rusher said he’s felt like he’s had two good legs back under him for the past few months and from that point just maintained his conditioning with his regular workout regimen while also mixing in something new, mixed martial arts training.
“I tried to incorporate some stuff with the MMA this offseason out in L.A. with hand combat type stuff and making sure everything is strong again and just getting back into the groove of playing football,” he said. “It’s a form of interval training and everything is violent with your hands and swinging your legs through with your hips. That’s all the stuff we do on the football field, so I really feel like it will only enhance my game.”
Merriman says he feels leaner and more agile with improved range of motion as a result of the training, saying his body has changed over the six or seven weeks he was doing MMA.
Often the last thing to return to a player with any kind of lower leg injury is their explosion. Obviously it’s an essential part of Merriman’s game, so when it did return he was excited.
“Absolutely I feel explosive again,” he said. “Just all the training I’ve been doing this offseason to get back to doing what I do best, which is explode and being my old self. I’m just happy to get back to that and it’s going to be a great period of time where everybody is going to get a chance to watch myself and us jell and get this thing going again.”
The Bills pass rusher admits he’s going to be fighting the urge to go full bore right off the bat, but he knows the long layoff from football this offseason presents a risk to himself and his teammates for injury. Merriman has taken a look at the practice schedule for camp however, and believes head coach Chan Gailey has put together a good plan.
“The system we have in place where we gradually get things going again is going to be perfect,” he said. “It’s going to work well for a lot of guys both rookies and veterans going back in the right direction.”
After being doubted by the naysayers all offseason, Merriman admitted that he was a bit more motivated to come into camp fully prepared to prove the doubters wrong. That coupled with a defense that he feels can make a big jump in performance in 2011 has him “super excited” about getting back on the field.
“It gets the juices flowing for sure because just looking around and seeing the guys hungry coming in last year and knowing that guys were just disappointed and that it could’ve been a lot better... Now we’re rebuilding and getting this going back in the right direction," he said. "I’m just excited to be here. I’m sure a lot of the guys are ready to get this thing going and we will.”