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Lights out: Merriman's season over

The Buffalo Bills rolled the dice when they signed Shawne Merriman to a two-year contract in the offseason, betting the oft-injured linebacker could recapture his past glory.

The gamble has been a bust.

The Bills placed Merriman on injured reserve Tuesday because of a problematic Achilles tendon that's plagued him over the last two years.

"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," Bills General Manager Buddy Nix said in a statement released by the team. "So we felt it was in the best interest of our team and for Shawne to put him on IR."

To take Merriman's spot on the 53-man roster, Antonio Coleman was signed off the New York Giants' practice squad, according to a report in the Newark Star-Ledger.

Merriman has been paid $6.95 million by the Bills -- $3.2 million last year after he was claimed off waivers from the San Diego Chargers, and another $3.75 million this year.

For that, he finishes his season -- and quite possibly his career in Buffalo -- with just one sack and nine tackles in five games.

Merriman released a statement on his website Tuesday, saying he needed surgery on his Achilles.

"Due to the fact that I have recently been experiencing excessive aggravation in my Achilles tendon, which is a limitation that I have been dealing with for well over two years now, I sought the opinions of multiple medical specialists. After much consideration and unanimous professional recommendations stating that my Achilles is in danger of rupturing, I have been advised that it would be in my best interest to undergo surgery as soon as possible in order to prevent a major injury," the statement read.

"I would like to thank all of my fans for their continued support on my road to a full recovery and am looking forward to getting back out on the field."

There's a fair chance that won't be with the Bills.

Merriman, 27, will earn a roster bonus of $1 million next March. He's due to get $4 million in base salary in 2012, $3 million of which is guaranteed.

However, there's an exception written into the guarantee that accounts for the 2010 injury that ended Merriman's season with the Bills before he had even played a snap. It was not immediately clear late Tuesday whether he'd have to pass a physical to get that guaranteed money.

The $6.95 million already paid breaks down like this: $1.7 million in base pay for 2010, a $1.5 million signing bonus when he signed his two-year contract extension Jan. 1, $2.75 million in base salary this year, a $500,000 reporting bonus and a $500,000 workout bonus.

Merriman's problematic Achilles injury flared up before the team's Week Six game against the New York Giants. He sat that game out but expressed optimism the bye week would give him enough time to heal.

"We knew we were going to have some type of troubles, little speed bumps going into the season with what I have," Merriman said 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."

It didn't happen for the player nicknamed "Lights Out." Once one of the NFL's most feared defenders, Merriman has been unable to recapture the form he had in San Diego. He's had just five sacks in the last four seasons -- after recording 39 1/2 in his first three seasons in the league.

Coach Chan Gailey hinted that Merriman's availability was in doubt Monday when the Bills returned to practice without the linebacker.

The Bills will get outside linebacker Chris Kelsay back against the Redskins. The two most likely candidates to take Merriman's spot in the lineup are Danny Batten and Arthur Moats.


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