“I practiced, I did everything I was supposed to do,” Merriman said. “I'll see how I feel [Friday]. I'll see how I feel going into Sunday.”
Merriman has been nursing a nagging Achilles' injury since Aug. 17. He returned to practice Sept. 8 as a limited participant, and the team has since gradually increased his reps. Asked to give a percentage on his chances for playing, Merriman said, “Most likely. That's what I'd say. Most likely.”
Defensive captain Stephen Cooper was also optimistic: “Him practicing the last few days is just showing it to us that he's out there, ready to play this week. He was out there today in full pads, running around, looking good. I really, really feel like he's going to have a big game Sunday and give us a big spark on defense.”
It's been a long road for Merriman's return to the field. He missed the final 15 games of the 2008 season due to reconstructive knee surgery. After working his way back last year, he missed more than two weeks of training camp before signing his restricted free agent tender. Soon after, an old Achilles' injury flared up, and he's been working his way back since.
The three-time Pro Bowler said he is eager to step in and do what is asked of him.
“I know what I need to do in order for our defense to be successful,” Merriman said, “and it's not to go out there and have three or four sacks a game and 10 tackles and go out there and sack the quarterback every time I rush.
“It's to go out, cause havoc and enough disruption so some of the other guys can go out there and make plays. That's my role within the defense -- not to go out and be Superman. I've got to go out there and be disruptive. Be a force.”
Merriman admitted he's anxious to return, but he's acquired patience through the experience, something he didn't have two or three years ago.
“I've just learned over time as I got a little older, just to [let things] happen,” Merriman said. “Things are going to work out. They always do. I feel comfortable. I feel confident going into Sunday.”