- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SAN DIEGO (AP) - The San Diego Chargers have turned out the lights on the player known as “Lights Out.”

Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, once one of the most-feared players in the NFL, was placed on the injured reserve list because of a calf injury and a “minor-injury designation” on Wednesday. Merriman must be released once he’s healthy, the team said.

Technically, the Chargers could re-sign the controversial player. That almost certainly won’t happen, though, because general manager A.J. Smith hasn’t been a fan of Merriman’s celebrity-leaning lifestyle.

Known as “Lights Out” because of his once-ferocious hits, Merriman had 39 1/2 sacks in his first three seasons. He’s had only four in the three seasons since then due to a variety of injuries.

He was suspended for four games in 2006 after testing positive for steroids. Even missing the four games, he had 17 sacks that year. Merriman blamed the positive test on a tainted supplement, which he never identified.

He also brought unwanted attention off the field. He was arrested just before the 2009 season after reality television star Tila Tequila accused him of battery and false imprisonment at his suburban San Diego home. No charges were filed, and Merriman and Tequila settled dueling lawsuits.

Merriman missed most of the 2008 season after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery. He had four sacks last year as he tried to regain his hard-hitting form. After sitting out most offseason workouts and part of training camp to protest his contract status, he was slowed by an Achilles’ injury and then a calf injury.

He had only five tackles and no sacks in limited action this year.

Smith didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Merriman, who’s been on the trading block for some time, declined to comment when contacted via e-mail.

However, a publicist released a statement in which Merriman was quoted as saying, “I am approaching this situation as an opportunity to grow as a player and to bring my leadership and talents to a new organization. I am ready for the next chapter in my career and I am excited about the opportunity to continue my journey with a new team.”

Coach Norv Turner said he doesn’t think Merriman’s recent injuries were related to his knee surgery two years ago.

“He’s had these muscle deals and he hasn’t let it heal,” Turner said.

“We’ve been trying hard to get Shawne back on the field,” Turner said. “It’s been a process that we’ve worked real hard it and it just wasn’t happening. I think this will give him the chance to get healthy without the pressure of trying to get ready to play. We need guys to play games.”

Asked if the prognosis was so bad that it wasn’t worth holding onto Merriman’s rights for the rest of the season, Turner said: “Those are questions regarding long-term and I’m not going to get into that right now.”

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