ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Shawne Merriman finds himself back in Buffalo eager to resume playing football after a two-month break, while also feeling a little red-faced over his, well, red face.
Preparing for his first practice with the Bills on Wednesday since re-signing with the team, the pass-rushing specialist sheepishly explained why his face was conspicuously sunburnt. It happened about 10 days ago after he finished a workout at his home in Miami.
"I fell asleep on the beach," Merriman said. "I woke up and my face was just hurting so bad. First time I ever had a sunburn."
Vacation time's over. With winter around the corner, Merriman won't be needing any sunblock in Buffalo, where the three-time Pro Bowl selection is getting yet another chance to kick start what's been a stalled career.
"I'll look to heal up here now," he said. "I'm excited, man."
Deemed expendable in mid-August, when the Bills cut Merriman, the player nicknamed "Lights Out" is back in a bid to provide a spark and add veteran depth to an injury-depleted defensive line. Starting right defensive end Mark Anderson is out indefinitely after having knee surgery last week, while veteran backup lineman Spencer Johnson is week to week with an ankle injury.
Coach Chan Gailey said he needs to evaluate Merriman in practice first before determining whether he'll play Sunday, when the Bills (3-3) host Tennessee (2-4).
"Probably, but don't make me 100 percent on that," Gailey said referring to Merriman's chances of playing. "As long as he's in playing shape and everything goes well this week, and he gets back into the flow of things, he's probably going to be right there Sunday afternoon giving us some help."
The Bills defense could as much help as it can get after getting off to a very inconsistent start.
After allowing a combined 1,201 yards and 97 points in consecutive blowout losses, Buffalo bounced back in a 19-16 overtime win at Arizona last weekend. It was a game in which high-priced free-agent addition Mario Williams had two of Buffalo's five sacks, and safety Jairus Byrd's second of two interceptions set up Rian Lindell's decisive field goal.
Having kept tabs with his former teammates and watched Buffalo's games on TV, Merriman is fully aware of the Bills struggles and itching to help.
"It's a little bit tougher to sit back and watch the game," he said. "But the good thing is, I don't have to sit back and watch any more. I can go out there and play now."
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