Originally written on Buffalo Wins  |  Last updated 7/24/12

The achilles tendon is the thickest/hardest tendon in the human body. Without it, we wouldn't be able to jump off the ground with the same peak. You mention the tendon to athletes and they squirm just a bit. When media or fans talk about it, it usually means bad news. Careers have never been the same once the 15 centimeters of mass has been ruptured. It is cancer for an athlete. Possibly curable? Yes. The same as before? Probably not.

We have heard all the cliches about this Bills' squad. Bunch of no-name guys who nobody wanted, just living their dream. The classic underdogs. The classic no-names. But sooner or later, the no-names become somebodies. They get the accolades and the endorsements roll in. Once they start getting paid, the underdog story just doesn't feel as shiny as it did before. Shawne Merriman is the role reversal of Fitz, Stevie, and Fred.

He was a star once...now the star is shooting down at about 3,000 feet above sea level.

A star who is probably on his last leg of TMZ fame. Merriman has always seemed to be a guy who never met a microphone he didn't like. There's nothing wrong with that as fame can be a pretty fun drug to be on. However, what happens when the drug wears off and people just don't care who you are anymore?

Merriman is at that juncture.

Merriman has played just 23 games since the start of 2008 and has just 5 sacks during that time because of his achilles problem. But it isn't his play over the last few years that I find to be interesting, it is just how he's kind of a fizzled star for the Bills. He's an afterthought instead of being THE thought. If you probably asked a non-Bills fan about Shawne Merriman, they'd think he was in SD or on a reality TV show or just fading into oblivion.

We all know Merriman loved fame when he was in San Diego. He cameoed on Entourage and was at pretty much every ESPN function. Now, I have this vision of Merriman not getting calls about making cameos anymore. He arrives at the nightclub at 11pm and instead of being able to skip the line, he has to wait while Screech Powers (Made movie moment) gets into the club.

Does he sit up at night while in bed, looking at his achilles, grabbing his muscle. Kind of a distant look on his face, gasping, wondering... Will it get back to normal? Hoping that it won't rupture. Hoping he can walk the red carpet or football field with the same all eyes on me mindset he had years ago.

If Merriman does anything this year, it will be a complete shock for me.

However, you can't say he has stopped trying.

Dude looks pretty jacked up for this season. When he talks, he seems like a man who is driven to get back to what he was, the star he knows he can be. But he also knows that this is it. No more Darryl Strawberry-like 2nd chances. You can't have an NFL career if you keep averaging five games a season. This is Merriman's comeback year (again). He is now the underdog just like Stevie and Fitz used to be. He knows what it is like to have people give up on him.

I'm skeptical about what he can do this year, but at least the guy doesn't have to look too hard to find someone in that locker room who knows what he's up against. Defying the odds is a norm in that locker room. Hopefully, it will rub off on #56. You can't doubt his training regiment or what he used to be, but will his strength for training match the strength of his achilles?

The lights are flickering until Opening Day...after that, they will be either on or off.

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