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Lights Out

I've never met Shawne Merriman, never seen him in person. But if there's one thing that's been established, long before this whole Nandrolone thing, it's that he's an angry man. A very angry man. Angrier than Denny Green. Angrier even than this soccer player who was bitten by some other soccer player, a move that was later described as a "comical nibble."

I guess I didn't follow Merriman's Maryland career to the extent I might have, but every long profile seems to center on issues of, well, rage. I received this month-old Sporting News feature from Bog reader Dan, which relates an incident from Merriman's time at Maryland:

At Maryland, he was perceived as somewhat of a wild hare and was benched for his first two seasons. The longer he sat, the more reckless he became with his play and his words. The hole he was in kept getting deeper, his anger more intense.

He was angry off the field, too. A teammate who came from money was annoying him by shooting off his mouth and talking down to those who didn't have what he had. Merriman warned him -- he even told coach Ralph Friedgen to tell the player to back off -- but the player did not listen. Finally, Merriman snapped and gave the player a beating so severe he had to go to the hospital.

That's normal.

And when Merriman was first drafted by the Chargers, a San Diego writer spent some time with him in P.G. County and found similar emotions. In this passage, he writes about Merriman being held out of high school drills so that he wouldn't hurt his teammates.

While teammates were spared the Merriman violence, opponents had to find a way to survive his hits.

It wasn't easy.

Surrattsville coach Tom Green recalled one game in which his running back caught a screen pass and Merriman ran from the other side of the field to make the hit.

"He knocked him to the track - from the sideline to the track," Green said. "None of the kids wanted to run the ball after that. I had to force kids to run the ball." ....

"That's what I did with my aggression," [Merriman said.] I used that instead of getting into trouble. That's my anger and my nasty attitude on the field. That's the only way I know how to play. I just play the game with a mean streak."

A recent L.A. times feature also made much of Merriman's "inner rage."

Now, if you read these stories, you will find lots of context, incredible tragedy from Merriman's youth that contributed to the anger, and to his using football as a distraction. Future baseball whiz Barry Svrluga handled the Merriman backstory about as well as anyone in this 2003 feature story. But the clear theme in so much of this writing is anger, which, in light of this week's events, seems interesting, at a minimum.

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 24, 2006; 4:19 PM ET
Categories:  NFL  
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