CHARGERS DIDN'T GET MEMO ON MERRIMAN?
Prior to the 2005 NFL draft, we heard that Maryland defensive end/linebacker Shawne Merriman was dropping on many draft boards.
On April 17, we reported that some thought Merriman would fall completely out of the first round.
On April 23, he didn't.
When the Cowboys passed on Merriman with the eleventh overall pick, we thought to ourselves, "It's happening." And Merriman likely thought the same, since as he claimed after the draft that the Cowboys had promised to take him with the first of their two first-round picks.
Then came the Chargers, who pounced on Merriman with the No. 12 selection.
After the draft, we began to pick up more information regarding the basis for teams' concerns. Without getting into many of the details (for now), the background information gathered by at least one franchise raised significant questions regarding Merriman's character.
We need to be clear here. We're not reporting that Merriman actually has any character issues. We're reporting that multiple league insiders who screen college talent for a living believed
that there were sufficient questions to justify avoiding Merriman, based on the significant money and time invested into the pre-draft screening process.
In fact, we've heard that some teams in the lower reaches of round one were concerned that they might face a tough decision on what would have appeared to be a significant potential value pick.
Armed with the information that we received from multiple league insiders, we embarked on a "real" journalism exercise. We placed a call to University of Maryland Associate Media Relations Director Greg Creese, and we aksed him some pointed questions about Merriman.
We were interested in talking to someone/anyone from Maryland because the information we'd obtained from league sources suggested that the Maryland football program had covered up some of the issues about which NFL teams were concerned. Creese denied our request to interview coach Ralph Friedgen, and Creese told us that he is aware of no discipline that ever was imposed on Merriman for any rules violations, etc.
Basically, the impression we got from Creese was that it was all a non-issue.
Then, within three hours after talking to Creese, we received an e-mail from K.J. Hughes, Merriman's "business manager," and Hughes asked that we give him a call. So we contacted Hughes on Friday afternoon, and he told us that he's the person to talk to if we have questions regarding Shawne.
But how did Hughes know that we had questions about Merriman? Hughes didn't admit that he'd been given a head's up by Creese or anyone else at Maryland -- and Hughes didn't deny it, either. The reasonable inference, from our perspective, is that our call to Creese struck a nerve, prompting him to call Hughes quickly.
So we aksed Hughes point blank about a rumored altercation at Maryland between Merriman and running back Sammy Maldonado. Hughes admitted that there had been a fight between the two players. Hughes denied rumors that Merriman had attacked Maldonado while Maldonado was sleeping.
Hughes also denied that there had been other altercations involving Merriman at Maryland, challenging us to produce police reports or other documents reflecting that such things had transpired. But that's part of the issue, we 'splained to Hughes. The information we've obtained suggested that all of this was swept under the rug by the Terrapin program.
Hughes further denied that Merriman had been booted off of campus due to his proclivity for fisticuffs.
During the conversation, Hughes repeated challenged our motives for investigating this matter. Hughes didn't seem to understand that, given Merriman's draft position, his termination of agent Gary Wichard in favor of the notorious Poston brothers, and the controversial decision not to attend the team's offseason workouts because of concerns regarding the injury protection language, Merriman is a high-profile guy whose background is of interest to many around the league.
The end result, in our opinion, was that Hughes came off as being way
too defensive of the Terp whom many believe is a turd. And we're convinced based on our communications with league sources that if the Chargers had known what other teams knew, they wouldn't have written Merriman's name on the card at No. 12.
And he very well might have stayed on the board deep into the afternoon of the first day of the draft.