Shawne Merriman said the bye week would be more than enough time to get his inflamed Achilles calmed down and ready for Buffalo's Week 8 matchup against Washington. The linebacker's Achilles has apparently not only refused to cooperate this week, but will not be healthy enough to allow Merriman to play the rest of the 2011 season.
The Bills placed Merriman on injured reserve Tuesday a little more than two weeks after missing his first game of the season at New York in Week 6.
"Shawne has worked extremely hard, but unfortunately, his Achilles flared back up and it doesn't appear that he will be able to return to the field anytime soon," said Bills GM Buddy Nix. "So we felt it was in the best interest of our team and for Shawne to put him on I-R."
Merriman had been dealing with a shoulder injury since Week 2, but had been able to play through it. The Thursday prior to the Giants game however, the linebacker's Achilles resurfaced as a problem after plaguing him for parts of the last two years.
The pass rusher downplayed the injury calling it "minor," but also indicated that he and the club knew it could crop up as an issue during the regular season.
"We knew we were going to have some type of troubles, little speed bumps going into the season with what I have," said Merriman last week. "That was laid out on the table a long time ago. We're just dealing with it accordingly and I'll be ready for after the bye week."
But the bye week came and went and Merriman was not on the practice field with his teammates Monday. Head coach Chan Gailey expressed concern about his availability for Sunday's game.
"He's not making the progress we had hoped right now," said Gailey Monday following practice.
The Bills tried from the very beginning to err on the side of caution with Merriman's Achilles as he only participated in 15 plays the entire preseason, missing the middle two preseason games entirely. He also missed a week of practices during training camp. During the regular season he routinely would get one day of practice off each week.
In games Merriman was not kept to a specific snap count according to Gailey, but was for all intents and purposes a part-time player getting anywhere from 20-30 snaps a game.
The hope was that by steadily ramping Merriman back up to a full scale regimen of regular season football that he would round back into the form that made him a three-time Pro Bowl linebacker. His trademark burst off the ball however, never seemed quite the same as he logged one sack in five games.
With his 2011 season cut short it unfortunately casts further doubt on his future playing career despite his best efforts to put his persistent injury problems behind him this past offseason. Merriman is under contract through the 2012 season.
More importantly Buffalo's outside linebacking corps is precariously thin with just Danny Batten, Arthur Moats and Chris Kelsay the only true outside backers. Defensive lineman Spencer Johnson has also spent time in an outside linebacker role this season.
No word yet on how the Bills intend to fill the vacant roster spot.