Tonawanda News — ORCHARD PARK — Forget extending Shawne Merriman any belated birthday wishes. For someone who turned 28 last week, the Buffalo Bills defensive end suddenly feels as if he’s actually turning back the clock.
“A year older? I’m like Benjamin Button, man,” Merriman said with a smile, referring to the fictional movie character who aged in reverse. “I’m going backward.”
On the field, Merriman took a big step forward Thursday by fully taking part in his first team practice since having season-ending surgery to repair a partially torn right Achilles tendon in November.
Merriman’s presence at the Bills second voluntary minicamp session came two days after he received a clean bill of health from James Andrews, the doctor who performed the operation.
Confident he’s put his injury troubles behind, the NFL’s 2005 defensive rookie of the year believes he’s finally in a position to regain the form that earned him three Pro Bowl selections and the nickname “Lights Out” as having been one of the league’s most dominating pass rushers.
“I feel young,” Merriman said. “Anybody that will get a chance to watch me this year will see I’m moving around as I did when I came into the league.”
The opportunity to finally prove himself couldn’t come soon enough for a player whose future was being questioned, and who is entering the final year of his contract with Buffalo.
He ran out of second chances in San Diego two years ago, when the Chargers released him after five-plus seasons. And Merriman’s barely made a dent in Buffalo, since the Bills took a chance by acquiring him off waivers in November 2010.
He finished the 2010 season on injured reserve after aggravating his Achilles tendon injury in his first practice with the Bills. And Merriman had nine tackles and two sacks in starting only five games last year with Buffalo before electing to have season-ending surgery.