It will be a close race, but I think that Merriman will win the award.
Shawne Merriman was as distraught as any Chargers player this week now that the playoffs are a goal not reached.
But Merriman acknowledged he will still have an aspiration in mind as he finishes his stellar rookie season tomorrow.
Merriman, who leads NFL rookies and is third among all linebackers with nine sacks, is one of three players believed to be front-runners for Defensive Rookie of the Year – along with fellow linebackers Lofa Tatupu of Seattle and Odell Thurman of Cincinnati.
"It would be an honor," Merriman said. "It would show I believed in what I said and did what I said I was going to do by being the best rookie to come out this year.
"That's the only way to prove it – to me anyway. Whether I do or don't, I feel like I've accomplished something by helping out my team. But it would be a big accomplishment for me to get that."
Muncie stopping by
Former Chargers Pro Bowl running back Chuck Muncie plans to stop by the Chargers' complex today and introduce himself to LaDainian Tomlinson.
"I look forward to meeting him," said Muncie, who is in town as part of a Motorola promotion in which he will take two fans to tomorrow's game. "He's a heck of a back. He's one of those rare guys who come along every 10 years in the NFL."
Tomlinson tied Muncie's 24-year-old team record of 19 touchdowns earlier this season. Tomorrow is his last chance to break it.
Muncie said he can hardly believe the record has stood this long.
"That's amazing," he said. "That lets me know it's pretty significant."
Front and back
It appears the Chargers will be without two starting defensive linemen and their starting safeties.
Tackle Jamal Williams (foot) and end Igor Olshansky (quad) did not practice yesterday. Free safety Bhawoh Jue (knee) also sat. And strong safety Terrence Kiel (ankle) was placed on injured reserve yesterday.
Kiel was replaced on the active roster by rookie cornerback Markus Curry, who had so far spent the season on the practice squad.
Tomlinson was named the Chargers' MVP in a vote by teammates, and he shared Offensive Player of the Year honors with tight end Antonio Gates. Williams was named the Defensive Player of the Year. Kassim Osgood, who has been on injured reserve for a month with a torn pectoral muscle, was named the Special Teams Player of the Year.
Linebacker Randall Godfrey was voted Most Inspirational Player. Godfrey, who is mulling whether to delay his retirement plans, missed the Nov. 6 game against the Jets after his sister was killed earlier that week.