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Chargers top pick plans to skip workouts

SAN DIEGO (May 5, 2005) -- First-round draft pick Shawne Merriman was advised by his new agent to skip all offseason workouts with the San Diego Chargers, starting with this weekend's minicamp.

Merriman and agent Kevin Poston want the Chargers to change the language that protects unsigned players in the minicamp agreement, general manager A.J. Smith said.

Smith said he was told of the decision May 4 by Poston, whom Merriman recently hired. Smith also said the Chargers have no intention of changing the protection language, which deals with injuries to players before they are under contract. Players not under contract sign agreements before offseason workouts.

"He's firm and we're firm," Smith said. "So I guess what we're talking about is him missing all this valuable time. That's the disappointing part of it. I respect his position and obviously he respects ours, but unfortunately, our player is not here."

That means Merriman will miss two minicamps and several coaching sessions.

"In 16 years, we've never had a client hold out of a minicamp," Poston told The Associated Press. "Unfortunately, the language of the minicamp agreement is not standard across the league. Players have held out of minicamp due to the way the minicamp agreement was written. In fact, we only requested the Chargers use the exact same language as another team and they declined. Shawne Merriman is the No. 12 pick and he should be afforded the same level of injury protection as other NFL rookies."

Merriman, an outside linebacker from Maryland, apparently fired his first agent, Gary Wichard, right after the draft. Poston and his brother, Carl, have represented numerous first-round picks and have had several protracted negotiations.

Smith said the Chargers have had only two players injured before they were under contract, and reached fair settlements with them.

"We do have a history of taking care of players," Smith said. "Everybody else has always signed and gone out on the field."

The Chargers projected Merriman as a starter opposite outside linebacker Steve Foley to help punch up their lethargic pass rush.

Smith said he anticipates opening contract negotiations with Merriman in early July. "Hopefully things will work out there and he'll join us the first day of training camp," Smith said.

Then again, the Chargers have a history of not getting their top draft picks into training camp on time, and this development doesn't necessarily bode well.

In recent seasons, quarterback Philip Rivers, cornerback Quentin Jammer and running back LaDainian Tomlinson all had long holdouts. Tomlinson had no problem getting up to speed and was a starter from the first game of his career, but the holdouts by Rivers and Jammer cost them a chance to compete for starting jobs. Jammer did play in 14 games as a rookie, starting four, but Rivers sat on the bench most of last season behind Drew Brees.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2005, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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