Merriman feels ‘a bit underappreciated’ by Chargers

A clip of Chargers players hitting the weight room aired Thursday during NFL Total Access, and Shawne Merriman was in studio watching it with host Rich Eisen instead of participating.

That’s because Merriman, whose original five-year contract has expired, isn’t involved in offseason workouts while he refuses to sign the first- and third-round tender ($3.27 million) the Chargers have given him. Unfortunately for Merriman, the uncapped 2010 season means he would have needed a sixth year to become an unrestricted free agent.

Asked if there’s an issue with management, Merriman alluded to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the collective bargaining agreement and free agents.

“I don’t think it’s an issue with me and management. I think it’s a situation I’ve been put in, along with 212 other guys,” Merriman said. “I’ve expressed to them many times that I want to be there. I do not even envision myself playing somewhere else. But right now I don’t know if that’s the case.”

After compiling 39.5 sacks in his first three seasons, the former All-Pro outside linebacker has struggled the past two years, partly because of injuries. Merriman missed all but the season opener in 2008 with torn ligaments in his left knee. Then, last season, he sat out two games while dealing with nagging foot and groin injuries. As a result, he posted just four sacks in 2009.

Even with the recent lack of production, Merriman used a word that sends a bad message if you’re a Chargers fan hoping he’ll remain in San Diego: Underappreciated.

“I feel like I’ve been a bit underappreciated while I’ve been there,” Merriman said. “Yeah, I had a rough year. Yeah, I had a groin and a foot injury that really slowed me down a whole lot. I came back from something that was tough for many guys to do, and right now, I’m more concentrated on getting back on the field 100 percent and performing like I do.

“There’s nothing more important to me than going out there and providing the things that I’ve been doing for my team for five years now. That’s the most important thing going on in my life and how I can get back and play great football.”

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