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Coach pleased with Merriman's progress

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

In an interview with Chargers.com, San Diego coach Norv Turner gave good news regarding the biggest on-field issue facing the team as he prepares for the 2009 season.

Turner said linebacker Shawne Merriman is making strong strides in his recovery from a September knee surgery that ended his 2009 season after one game. Merriman's loss greatly affected San Diego's defense and it clearly missed his pass-rushing presence.

Turner indicated that Merriman is ahead of schedule and will be ready for training camp. This backs up what Merriman said after the Chargers lost to Pittsburgh in the AFC divisional playoffs Jan. 11. Merriman said he was ahead of schedule and he was in the best shape of his life. Merriman said there was no question that he'd be ready for training camp and it wasn't out of the question that he'd return for minicamps in the spring.

Having Merriman back for a minicamp would be a bonus, but the key is for him to be back for training camp and some limited preseason action to shake the rust of nearly a year off.

Unless he has an unexpected setback, expect Merriman to be ready to roll for training camp. This is an intense, proud player. Remember, Merriman ignored medical advice in August and went ahead and played on his damaged knee until he couldn't any longer. Merriman, who had an NFL high 39.5 sacks in his first three seasons, is a warrior who is going to work hard to get back on the field.

Turner's comments this week only backs up that Merriman is on his way. If Merriman was having any issues Turner's words wouldn't be this encouraging. They'd be guarded.

Again, setbacks can happen, but Chargers fans should feel good that that they will get Merriman back on the field at the start of the 2009 season.