Orchard Park, NY -- For the one-time perennial All-Pro pass rusher Shawne Merriman, the past few years have been challenging, frustrating and everything in between as he's battled various injuries during his career.
Just turning 28 on May 25, Merriman had corrective surgery on his Achilles to help get him back 100-percent. Optimistically, he feels reinvigorated and doesn't have a lot of wear-and-tear on his body throughout the past three seasons because of all the injuries.
"I’m like Benjamin Button, man. I’m going backwards," Merriman joked with reporters on Thursday.
Following the late October surgical procedure that he hopes will finally put an end to all the setbacks to his Achilles, Merriman has been cleared to take part in full practices with the Buffalo Bills.
With another year left on his contract and yet another chance to prove himself, Merriman touted how fresh he feels.
"I feel very young," Merriman opined. "Anybody that will get a chance to watch me this year, I’m moving around as I did when I came into the league. Fortunately, that’s really all I had, the Achilles, over the last three years. Now that I’ve had that done, I’m a lot more confident."
After sitting out the Bills' opening session of Organized Team Activities on Tuesday, Merriman was a full participant during the team's second practice on Thursday.
That means he did the works: individual drills, positional drills, 7-on-7's, 11-on-11's. Merriman admitted that he cautiously didn't go full speed in an attempt to work himself back in to things slowly, but did say how relieved he was to be back on the practice field.
"It felt great, man," he said. "Just walking out there with the guys ... I’ve been here the whole entire offseason, every day, working with the guys and full on, just doing everything my teammates are doing and that just made me happy because these guys never got a chance to see me go out and really work."
Since the time when he has dealt with the nagging Achilles injury, Merriman has appeared in only eight games over two seasons, with just one sack to show for it.
Still with a long time to go until training camp rolls around, the Buffalo defensive end admitted it feels like a brand new beginning.
"It does, because it was a hard three years when you’re dealing with something like the Achilles, and you don’t know whether to go in and get something done or not, and you’re a game-time decision, you don’t know if you can practice ... you’re in pain," he said. "You can’t go out there and play the way you’re (used to) playing.
"I just felt that I was in a position where I couldn’t go out and perform. I couldn’t go out and do the things I do best. I couldn’t explode, so you know what people have seen the last three years wasn’t Shawne Merriman, it was a guy that was going out there trying his best for what I had at the time."
In his first day back, Merriman said he felt good and kidded that maybe he needed to lop off some of his mohawk so he can better fit his helmet. So now what's next for the rejuvenated pass rusher?
"Just continue to work," Merriman remarked. "Obviously I have high expectations of myself. I want to go out and say I’m going to get this many sacks, I’m going to have this type of year, but I’m really ready to do that. I’m really ready to go out there and show (instead of) answering the questions about what kind of year I’m going to have. The type of work that I’ve put in this offseason, my body’s ready to have that kind of year."
The Bills wrap up their first week of OTAs on Friday at One Bills Drive.