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Merriman's arrest makes road tougher for Chargers

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A couple of weeks ago, after a San Diego Chargers practice, Coach Norv Turner off-handedly mentioned how nice and quiet things had been for the team this summer.

So much for that.

If you could draw up precisely what the team didn't need, this would be at the top of the list: Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman arrested on suspicion of roughing up a female acquaintance.

We don't have the full picture of what happened, but we know the basics from police:

Merriman and the woman, MTV's Tila Tequila, were at a birthday party at a nightclub in downtown San Diego, and stayed until closing time. Along with other people, they went back to the linebacker's house in Poway, where the alleged incident took place.

Police responded to a 911 call from Tequila, whose real name is Tila Nguyen. When they arrived, they found Merriman and the woman in the driveway.

"She was pretty adamant that we was going to sign a citizen's arrest. She also wanted to be taken to the hospital by ambulance," said Jan Caldwell, spokeswoman for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

Deputies are required to make an arrest when someone signs a citizen's arrest form, as Nguyen did.

There were several other people at the home at the time of the alleged assault, and police have questioned them. Police also said Tequila was intoxicated, but they were unclear whether Merriman had been drinking.

Merriman didn't resist arrest and was cooperative, police said. He was bailed out several hours later. Tequila, who was not seriously injured, was taken to a hospital, examined and released. Caldwell said that deputies did not see any physical injuries on Nguyen.

"That's not to say they weren't there, the deputies just didn't see any," Caldwell said.

The district attorney will decide where to take the case from here, and it sounds as if Tequila is ready to pursue any potential charges. Her New York-based attorney, Scott E. Leemon, released the following statement:

"Due to the serious nature of this matter, and out of respect for all domestic violence victims and defendants, Ms. Nguyen and her representatives will not be publicly addressing the facts and circumstances of the incident."

Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith also released a statement, saying: "It's disappointing to hear about the issue involving Shawne Merriman. We'll continue to monitor the situation and let the legal process run its course."

Before that happens, the Chargers' season will be underway. And this incident is a major headache for a team that opens Sept. 14 in a prime-time Monday night game at Oakland.

Merriman is no small factor. He's the centerpiece of San Diego's defense and an especially big story this season, seeing as he's coming off a knee injury that sidelined him for the 2008 season. His comeback is in the national spotlight, in fact, overshadowed only by that of returning New England quarterback Tom Brady.

What's more, Merriman is in the final year of his contract and probably won't be with the Chargers next season. He's playing for a break-the-bank deal with someone, so this is a pivotal season for him.

The last two seasons, the Chargers made the playoffs despite sleepwalking through September and October. They are determined to get off to a better start this time.

Things just got tougher for them.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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