Chargers turn lights out on 'Lights Out' Merriman

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 with 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 39½ 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 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."

Merriman was the 12th pick overall in the 2005 draft, coming to the Chargers with one of the picks Smith got from the New York Giants in the Eli Manning-Philip Rivers swap on draft day 2004. Merriman was The AP's Defensive Rookie of the Year after getting 10 sacks in 2005. He made the Pro Bowl after each of his first three seasons, and was named All-Pro in 2006 despite the suspension.

The Chargers drafted outside linebacker Larry English in the first round in 2009 as Merriman's eventual replacement. English had only two sacks last year. He recently had foot surgery and has missed three games, and is expected to miss two to four more games.

The Chargers (2-3), struggling due to special teams breakdowns and turnovers, signed linebacker Antwan Barnes to take Merriman's roster spot.

Barnes spent his first three seasons in Baltimore and was traded to Philadelphia on Sept. 4 for a seventh-round draft choice. Barnes was waived by the Eagles on Saturday.

Barnes had five sacks in three seasons with Baltimore, and intercepted San Diego's Philip Rivers when the Ravens faced the Chargers in 2009.

San Diego also added receiver Kole Heckendorf to the practice squad.