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Merriman out with sprained knee ligament

SAN DIEGO -- Shawne Merriman is on the shelf due to injury, but Titans coach Jeff Fisher says he didn't order a "hit" to put him there.

The star linebacker
will miss San Diego's
home game against Detroit because of a sprained ligament in his
left knee that knocked him out of Sunday's game at Tennessee, which
the Chargers won in overtime.

The Tennessean reported Merriman claims on Monday that the Titans coach ordered that the linebacker be hurt in retaliation for a shot on quarterback Vince Young. Young had just handed off to Chris Brown and turned away Sunday, finishing off a fake, when he collided with Merriman and went to the ground. He was tended to by trainers and a team doctor and left for a play, returning on the next series and finishing the game.

"I didn't order a hit," Fisher said, according to the Tennessean. "The play was designed and you saw it on the practice field if you watched practice. We're playing ball, that's all. ... He's a good player, but we're playing ball."

The newspaper said that several Chargers told Merriman that Titans center Kevin Mawae and another player were involved in the play with intentions of hurting Merriman.

Asked if he thought it was a dirty game, running back LaDainian Tomlinson said: "I don't know what you classify 'dirty' as. I
don't know. I think it was a competitive game. I think sometimes
throughout a competitive game things happen. Guys go to extra
distance to make a play, make things happen.

"But understand something -- that's the way the game was played
a long time ago, when guys like Deacon Jones played," Tomlinson
said. "I think sometimes we forget it's football and guys before
us played the game harder than the way we play it now. There's so
many rules; you can't do this, you can't do that. And so when
things like yesterday happen, people always say, 'Well it was a
dirty game, dirty play.' I don't know. It's behind us now. This
ain't the only time we're going to get played like that. We're
going to have to face it again."

Merriman wasn't the only one to get hurt in the game.

Quarterback Philip Rivers was in a little better shape on Monday, saying he
expects to play against the Lions even though he, too, has a
sprained left knee.

Tight end Antonio Gates bruised his back, guard Mike Goff strained his right foot, punter Mike Scifres bruised a rib and defensive tackle Jamal Williams sprained his right ankle. Also, fullback Lorenzo Neal
had surgery to put a plate in his broken right leg and will miss
the rest of the regular season.

"It will be at least one game," Merriman said in an e-mail to
The Associated Press on Monday. "I'll be back to dominating in no
time."

Coach Norv Turner said Merriman's injury isn't season-ending.

"I'm not going to speculate, but it could be a couple of
weeks," Turner said.

Both Merriman and Rivers were hurt in the second quarter of San
Diego's 23-17 overtime win at Tennessee, a hard-hitting game in
which several players were hurt.

The team refused to give more details about the injuries.

Rivers either didn't want to be specific about his injury or was
told not to discuss it with the media.

"I'll leave that up to the coach and the trainer as far as
giving you the information," he said. "I don't try to get caught
up in all the scientific words that are used."

Rivers wore a knee brace to his news conference on Monday.

"It was pretty sore this morning, but it shouldn't be anything
I can't manage and get better during the week," Rivers said.

With three games to go, the Chargers (8-5) lead the AFC West by
two games over Denver. The Chargers can win the division for the
second straight season if they beat the Lions and the Broncos lose
to the Houston Texans on Thursday night.

Merriman had two sacks Sunday before he was hurt, pushing his
season total to 11½. Nicknamed "Lights Out" for his punishing
hits, Merriman is the sixth player in NFL history to get 10 or more
sacks in his first three seasons. His career total is 38½.

He had an NFL-high 17 sacks last season in 12 games. He was
suspended four games after testing positive for steroids.

Rivers limped off the field after taking a blow from defensive
end Antwan Odom in the second quarter.

Rivers handed the ball to Tomlinson, rolled out and was clipped
to the ground. He tried to walk off the field, nearly falling on
his way to the sideline.

Rivers headed to the locker room, and was replaced by Billy Volek. But he was back for San Diego's opening series of the third
quarter.

"I think it was one of those freak accidents, really," Rivers
said. "It was as physical of a game I've been involved with."

Rivers returned for the start of the second half and played well
down the stretch. He threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Gates
with 9 seconds left to send the game into overtime, when Tomlinson
won it with a 16-yard run.

Tomlinson rushed for 146 yards and one score, and caught a TD
pass.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.