The star outside linebacker won't play in Saturday night's exhibition opener against Chicago, but coach Norv Turner expects him to be ready by the following weekend's game against Dallas.
Merriman, once one of the most-feared players in the NFL, stood on the sideline watching Friday's walkthrough, the sleeves on his jersey rolled up to expose his tattooed arms.
"I think it was time for me to come in and get ready," said Merriman, who's trying to regain the form that resulted in 39½ sacks in his first three seasons. "You can't show up game one, game two, whatever, and expect to be ready. The only way to emulate football is to play football."
Merriman softened his stance on a handful of issues, including one in which he was quoted as saying he wanted the Chargers to tell him he wouldn't be traded during the season.
"Everybody's on the trading block, so I don't think that was a question at all. I think it was more of it being talked about so much. We have bigger fish to fry, and that's to play the Kansas City Chiefs and get ready for them," he said, referring to the season opener on Sept. 13.
"At no point in time did I want my conversation on where I'm going to play or what's going to happen be bigger than us getting ready for a game. At some point, it got there. That's what I wanted to stay away from. But I'm happy to be back here for another year, to come out and finish what we started with these guys. There's no better way to do it."
So did he accomplish anything by not being in camp?
"No I didn't accomplish anything at all because I always knew that I was wanted here and that was one of the biggest reasons for getting some things sorted out," he said. "But just the whole business part of it you just hate to deal with. I'm just so glad that that's behind me now where I can go out and play."
Merriman said he expressed his concerns a few times to general manager A.J. Smith, including during a phone conversation on Thursday.
"We obviously have the same goals, trying to accomplish the same things, and sometimes in between, things get a little mixed up and they shouldn't be," Merriman said. "But ultimately we have the same goals, to come out and be a championship ballclub."
Smith, not a fan of Merriman's celebrity-leaning pursuits away from football, didn't return a call seeking comment.
Merriman also backed off an earlier statement that he wanted to be on a team where the defense was built around him.
Asked if that would be the situation with the Chargers, he said: "Absolutely not. It wasn't intended for any defense or anything like that to be built around me. I want to be a big part of this team for the next five, seven years, whatever it is. I've never been a guy that wanted anything built around me because I always believe that if you put me on the field, I'm going to be able to make plays. You don't have to do anything around me at all. I'm just happy to be here and do my part, and do my part as I have for the last five years."
He also said he wanted people to stop dwelling on talk about a long-term deal with the Chargers, "because as you saw in '08, it can be over and you can be out. I'm going to continue to take it year by year. I know I'm wanted here and that's good enough for me."
Nicknamed "Lights Out" because of his punishing hits, Merriman missed the final 15 games of the 2008 season after having reconstructive knee surgery. He was limited to four sacks last year as he bounced back from the knee surgery and dealt with other injuries.
Merriman was a force in his first three NFL seasons, although he served a four-game suspension in 2006 after testing positive for steroids. He had a career-high 17 sacks in 12 games that season.
Turner said Merriman has plenty of time to get ready for the season opener.
"I know what he brings to our football team — he brings another outstanding football player with a real competitive attitude," Turner said. "I think rubs off on everybody and that will help everybody else."
The four-time AFC West champion Chargers are trying to bounce back from an embarrassing 17-14 playoff loss to the New York Jets.