Merriman drops appeal, will serve suspension

Shawne Merriman Merriman

SAN DIEGO --The San Diego Chargers must play their next
four games without outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, one of the
NFL's top young stars who decided Tuesday not to appeal his
suspension for testing positive for steroids.

Merriman's suspension is another blow to one of the NFL's
toughest defenses, which has been hit by injuries and off-field
trouble since before the season started. Nicknamed "Lights Out"
because of his punishing hits, Merriman will be shut down for games at home
against Cleveland, at Cincinnati, at Denver and at home against the
Oakland Raiders.

Shawne Merriman made the right move in dropping his appeal of his four-game suspension for a steroid product found in a supplement.

The Chargers linebacker could have gone to a hearing next Tuesday in New York but he had little chance of winning. Players who test positive for a tainted supplement rarely win. Knowing that, it was a matter of figuring out the right time to fit in the four-game suspension.

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Merriman, who's tied for the NFL lead with 8 1/2 sacks, and his
attorney have blamed a tainted supplement for the player's positive
test for the steroid nandrolone. Merriman couldn't be reached for

The suspension won't officially begin until after Merriman
addresses his teammates on Wednesday. After that, he'll be barred
from the team's headquarters until he's eligible to return on Nov.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Merriman had sought a deal with the league that would allow him to address his teammates on Wednesday before his suspension took effect, and the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that request was granted. Under NFL rules, suspended players are banned from their team facilities.

The Chargers, who were off Tuesday, vowed to press on without
Merriman, a Pro Bowl starter who was voted the 2005 NFL Defensive
Rookie of the Year.

"He's upset because he let his team down, but we're OK,"
outside linebacker Shaun Phillips said in a phone interview.
"We're behind him 100 percent. We know he's not that kind of guy,
that he wouldn't do anything to boost his performance.

"We're a good team. We'll get over it," said Phillips, who
moved into the starting lineup after Steve Foley was shot by an
off-duty police officer on Sept. 3. Phillips missed Sunday's 38-24
win over the St. Louis Rams with a calf injury and has only a 50
percent chance of playing against the Browns.

Had Merriman gone through with the appeal and lost, there was
the chance he'd miss both games against Denver. The Chargers host
the Broncos on Dec. 10. Few people expected Merriman to win on
appeal because the NFL holds players accountable for knowing the
contents of the supplements they take.

Word of Merriman's positive test leaked on Oct. 22. Merriman
announced last Tuesday he was appealing, and matched his
career-high with three sacks against the Rams. He celebrated each
as he usually does, by pretending to flip a switch tattooed on his
forearm followed by a spasmodic dance.

Carlos Polk, who missed most of the last two seasons due to
injuries, is expected to start in Merriman's place. Polk has no
starts and one sack in six seasons..

"We're obviously going to support Shawne and we'll prepare for
the alternatives much the way we would if we had a player who
wasn't available for other reasons," coach Marty Schottenheimer
said by phone. "We'll put the pieces together and go back to

Merriman apologized to his teammates last Monday for the
distraction his positive test caused. But Schottenheimer and other
players said it would be a distraction only if they let it.

"The way we performed with this information out there would
indicate it was not a distraction," Schottenheimer said.

While Phillips is expected to be listed as questionable for the
Browns game, end Igor Olshansky (knee) is expected to be doubtful
due to a knee injury.

General manager A.J. Smith and Merriman's attorney, David
Cornwell, didn't return calls seeking comment.

The team released this statement:

"We're proud of the standup way Shawne has taken responsibility
for the mistake he made. We have faith in Shawne Merriman and we
have faith in the players on this team. The Chargers have been
resilient all season long, and we will continue to be resilient.
It's a tough lesson learned for Shawne about the world of

Besides Merriman's suspension, the Chargers have had five
separate off-field issues dating back to April.

Foley was shot three times near his suburban home early on Sept.
3 by an off-duty police officer who suspected him of drunk driving.
Foley will miss the entire season and was charged with two counts
of DUI.

Safety Terrence Kiel was arrested on five felony drug counts in
September and has pleaded not . He missed one game.

Cornerback Markus Curry, who had been demoted to the practice
squad, was released on Oct. 9, just hours after he was arrested on
suspicion of committing domestic violence.

Foley and Phillips were each arrested for scuffling with San
Diego police officers a week apart in April. Neither was charged.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.