Shawne Merriman announced his retirement on Tuesday, giving us a chance to fully reflect on one of the strangest careers in NFL history — one that will turn him into a poster boy for steroids in football for many, many years to come.
During his first three years in the league, Merriman recorded more sacks than any other player in the NFL. That despite the fact he missed six games during that span (four due to suspension and two due to injury). Here's how he compared to some of the league's best pass rushers during that time period, on a per-game basis.
Merriman's career took a sharp turn after that. A knee injury cost him virtually the entire 2008 season and he wasn't himself in 2009. The balky knee was lingering and foot problems became a factor, too. He was released midway through the 2010 season after a calf injury held him back. He ended up toiling away with the Bills for parts of the last three years, but he again couldn't stay healthy.
Here's a look at what happened to Merriman's career after that '07 campaign:
So did injuries derail his career, or was it the fact he was no longer benefiting from performance-enhancing drugs after that original suspension? A bigger question is whether the lack of juice led to the injuries and the demise of his career.
It's interesting that, even upon returning from his 2006 suspension, Merriman had 21 sacks in 20 games between then and the end of the 2007 season. If he was suddenly clean, it didn't have a negative impact on his career until almost two years after his failed drug test.
It's easy to forget the good Merriman moments because of all that has happened since, but — superficially or not — he was damn fun to watch in those early years.