Shawne Merriman & His Bionic Knee To Play In ‘08

The 2008 NFL season starts in seven days. In that time, rosters will be trimmed, starting jobs will be won, and Shawne Merriman will have visited five different orthopedic surgeons to get opinions 6-10 on his knee.

Shawne Merriman

Actually, Merriman only needed four second opinions advising him to sit out the season and have surgery … to convince himself that he would, in fact, play. Makes you wonder why he consulted a doctor in the first place.

The Chargers organization has been scrutinized for the decision to allow Merriman to take the field with a career-threatening injury, but maybe playing with damaged posterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments isn’t as bad as it sounds:

According to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who is not one of Merriman’s doctors, the injury should not have much of an effect on the linebacker’s ability to run straight ahead. Merriman might encounter problems, however, in moving backward or from side to side.

As for whether Merriman is likely to cause further damage to his knee by playing this season, ElAttrache said: “The die to a large degree is probably cast. So him trying to play an extra season is not going to change much.”

I suspect ElAttrache’s second point has a lot to do with Merriman’s decision to put off surgery, even though it sounds like he won’t be nearly the player he was during his previous three Pro Bowl seasons if he can’t move laterally.

But apparently, a relatively immobile Merriman pre-surgery, is a lot better than a post-surgery Merriman with a shiny, new reconstructed knee:

A study released last year showed that NFL players who undergo reconstructive knee surgery are likely to see a significant drop in their productivity when they eventually return. And there’s this for Merriman : He will enter into the final year of his contract next season — a year when he’ll be setting up a potential blockbuster deal with San Diego or another franchise — and the Chargers just signed his backup to a five-year extension.

One question: what did the study show for NFL players who put off surgery, subsequently had their knee blow up doing a game, and spent the rest of the lives in a wheelchair? I’m guessing they also experienced a “significant drop in productivity” but without the benefit of actually collecting a paycheck.