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Shawne Merriman vows he'll return to form

Buffalo Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman recently turned 28, but he doesn't feel any older. In fact, it's the opposite.

"A year older? I'm like Benjamin Button, man," Merriman told The Associated Press on Thursday, referring to the Brad Pitt movie about the man who aged in reverse. "I'm going backward."

A wise guy such as myself might contend that "Groundhog Day" better describes Merriman's attitude. After all, there's something awfully familiar about Merriman saying that this is the year we again see the player who emerged as one football's brightest young stars half a decade ago in San Diego.

But we can't fault Merriman for being optimistic. Thursday was a triumphant day as Merriman took part in his first team practice since undergoing surgery to repair a partially torn right Achilles' tendon in November.

The Bills haven't gotten much out of him since picking him off waivers in 2010, and this could be Merriman's last shot at resurrecting an NFL career that once seemed destined for greatness.

"To go out there and do everything now, and get that push-off, get that explosion, things that made me the player I am in this league, it feels great," he said.

Working in Merriman's favor is the fact that the Bills aren't expecting him to carry the load on defense. Buffalo has switched back to the 4-3, and Merriman will be joined by free-agent imports Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, two players who specialize in getting to the quarterback.

"I know why they brought me here, and I know what I'm capable of doing for my team," Merriman said. "The additions we made with Mario and Mark and all the other guys that came in, it's going to be huge year. But we don't want it to be a huge year on paper. We want to go out and who people it's going to be a huge year on game day."

Merriman is talking about the entire unit, but he could just as easily be talking about himself.

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