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Mohawk-wearing Merriman healing, not worried about his Chargers future

SAN DIEGO -- Shawne Merriman stood out Friday, even though he was held out of team drills in the San Diego Chargers' first minicamp practice.

First, there's his mohawk, which he said he got just for the heck of it. Then there's the ever-present speculation that 2009 could be the final season the star outside linebacker spends in San Diego.

Merriman just wants to play football, although he's not quite ready yet. He's still rehabilitating after having season-ending knee surgery following the opening game last year.

"I want to go out there, and I want to fly around and try and take somebody's head off," Merriman said. "That's the only thing that's important to me right now. I don't care about anything else. I want to go out there, and I want to prove that this is what I love to do and this is why I do it. Instead of talking about it so much, I'd rather get that helmet and shoulder pads on me."

Merriman spent time Friday working on a side field with left tackle Marcus McNeill and nose tackle Jamal Williams, who also are coming off surgery.

While saying his knee feels great, Merriman won't say what percentage he's at right now. But he does anticipate being ready for the season.

"If I told you what I felt like for that Carolina game last year, it would be ridiculous," he said. Merriman played in a season-opening loss to the Panthers, then decided to have surgery on two torn ligaments in his left knee.

"Just say I feel a lot better than that for sure, right now," said Merriman, who's nicknamed "Lights Out" for his hard hits.

Merriman's contract expires after the 2009 season, and there already has been talk that he'll receive big free-agent money elsewhere, perhaps from the Washington Redskins. Merriman grew up near Washington and played at Maryland. Or maybe the Chargers will make him their franchise player in 2010 and pay him a huge salary for one season.

Merriman has heard all the scenarios and laughs about the one involving the Redskins.

"All that stuff to me is garbage," he said. "Whatever happens is going to happen. If that's the case, I'm going to make the best of it, period."

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith reportedly doesn't like Merriman's extracurricular activities. Merriman has various business ventures, and while on the injured reserve list last year, he flew back and forth to Los Angeles once a week to appear on a football preview show.

Smith didn't return a call seeking comment on Merriman.

The GM added to speculation about Merriman's future by picking Larry English in the first round of last weekend's draft. English was a defensive end at Northern Illinois, but the Chargers plan to put him at outside linebacker.

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Merriman said he understands any concerns the Chargers' front office might have, although he said no one from the executive suite has ever spoken to him about them. And he said he knows the difference between his day job and his other pursuits.

"I think I'd be concerned with anybody who likes to do other things outside of football. But that's something I like to do. This is what I love to do," Merriman said, motioning to the field. "As long as I'm proving this is what I love to do, I think everything will be put to rest."

Merriman had 39.5 sacks in his first three seasons and went to the Pro Bowl all three years. The Chargers clearly lost their defensive spark when he went out with the injury.

One week after outlasting the Indianapolis Colts in an overtime playoff victory, the Chargers, who won the mild AFC West at 8-8, were exposed by the more physical Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round.

"I think there were times when we ran out of gas," Merriman said about that game. "Toward the end of the game, they (the Steelers) kept pounding us. That doesn't have to be said by me. You can watch the film on that. It was embarrassing to me."

And Merriman said he couldn't be happier playing in San Diego.

"What I can control is going out there and returning to the form that I'm used to, going out there playing and performing," he said. "In this case, man, I almost kind of wish that everybody would stop talking about it because there's nothing I can do. If they ask me a question, it'll be the same answer from now until whenever that time comes."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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