Chargers’ Merriman will play

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Denying reports that he could be risking a career-threatening knee injury, San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman has decided to play this season.

Merriman, 24, who reached the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons, has consulted with five specialists around the country who reportedly have recommended he sit out the season and undergo surgery to repair damage to his posterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments.

“To be as simple as possible, I just want to play football,” Merriman said. “That’s what it comes down to. I know what’s on the table, I know what’s on the line. I put a lot of work in this and I want to play.”

The Chargers, who cleared Merriman to play before training camp, had held out hope that he could play this season.


NFL teams are required to trim their rosters to 53 players this weekend, so the availability of Merriman was an issue.

According to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who is not one of Merriman’s doctors, the injury should not have much of an effect on the linebacker’s ability to run straight ahead. Merriman might encounter problems, however, in moving backward or from side to side.

As for whether Merriman is likely to cause further damage to his knee by playing this season, ElAttrache said: “The die to a large degree is probably cast. So him trying to play an extra season is not going to change much.”

While denying reports the situation could be career-threatening, the linebacker pledged to be “the same old Shawne Merriman. That’s what I’m hoping.”


-- Sam Farmer

Lofa Tatupu has a bone bruise in his right knee, but Seattle Coach Mike Holmgren said the Pro Bowl linebacker will be fine for the season opener Sept. 7 at Buffalo.

Defensive end Derrick Harvey ended a 33-day holdout by signing a five-year, $23.8-million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars.



Warriors’ Ellis sidelined

Golden State guard Monta Ellis will be sidelined for at least three months after severely spraining his ankle during a workout, forcing the Warriors to start the season without the player expected to lead their revamped roster this fall.

Ellis, who got a six-year contract extension worth $66 million July 24, sprained his ankle and tore a deltoid ligament while working out in his hometown of Jackson, Miss., last Thursday, said Chris Mullin, the Warriors’ top basketball executive.

The Lakers signed Joe Crawford, their second-round draft pick.


The 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Kentucky averaged 17.9 points a game and shot 36.4% from three-point range in his senior season.

The Lakers did not have a first-round pick because they traded it to Memphis as part of the Pau Gasol deal, but they selected Crawford with the 58th pick.

Crawford played for the Lakers’ Summer League team in Las Vegas and averaged 11.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in six games.



Softball coach steps down

Mike Candrea, the Arizona softball coach whose bid to lead the United States to a second gold medal ended with a loss to Japan in the Beijing title game, stepped down as coach of the national team.

Candrea had coached the Americans since 2002 and went 17-1 in Olympic play. The only defeat was a 3-1 loss to Japan in the gold medal game last week.



Kings sign two draft picks

The Kings signed 2008 second-round draft pick Viatcheslav Voynov, a defenseman, and fifth-round pick Andrei Loktionov, a forward, to three-year contracts, the team announced. Voynov and Loktionov, both 18, helped Russia finish second at the Under-18 World Championships earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the Ducks signed left wing Joakim Lindstrom to a one-year contract. Lindstrom was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets last month in exchange for a conditional draft pick in 2010.

Originally a second-round pick in 2002, he scored seven points in 25 games for Columbus last season.


-- Dan Arritt


Duckworth had heart disease

Oregon officials say an autopsy shows former Portland Trail Blazers center Kevin Duckworth died when his enlarged heart failed.


Duckworth died Monday at 44 on the Oregon coast, where he was on a goodwill tour for the team.

The Oregon State Police said the autopsy was done by Dr. Larry Lewman, who concluded that Duckworth died of “hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with congestive heart failure.”

The police statement says the heart disease had combined with high blood pressure to result in “marked enlargement of his heart which had been failing for some time.”