Merriman deciding whether to play or have surgery

SAN DIEGO -- Chargers Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman said Saturday he has two torn ligaments in his left knee and has been told by doctors that he could suffer a possible career-ending injury if he attempts to play without having surgery.

Merriman said he has tears in both the posterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments. He said doctors agree that he needs surgery to repair the damage.

"It could be career-threatening if I did [play]," Merriman said. "It's a possibility. That possibility is still open."

A course of action has not been decided. Merriman, who will consult with a doctor in Miami early next week before making a decision, has been told reconstructive surgery would keep him out for the 2008 season. Another option is a less-invasive surgery that would allow him to play at some point in the season.

"They've all said the same things about the injury," Merriman said. "[They're] kind of surprised that I've been playing with it up to this point."

The Chargers open the regular season Sept. 7 against the Carolina Panthers. Merriman wants to play this season.

"That's first and foremost," Merriman said. "That's what I want to do. That's why this decision is even out there still and not already made, because I want to play, period. The question is what should I do? How long should I play with it?

"It's a thousand different options at this point and I'm just trying to make the best one."

Merriman left the team Tuesday to seek opinions from other doctors, a trek that included a visit with renowned surgeon James Andrews on Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala. He said he is seeking as many opinions as he can for a reason.

"I'm just trying to make the best decision possible for the team and for my career," Merriman said.

Coach Norv Turner has remained optimistic all week that Merriman will be able to play this season. He again expressed that hope Saturday.

"Right now, in talking to him, his mind-set is he's doing everything he can to get ready for Carolina, our opener," Turner said. "He just wants to get a little bit more information on his knee."

Merriman has made the Pro Bowl in each of his three NFL seasons. He has 39½ sacks in that span, more than any other NFL player.