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Sack is back for Merriman in 2nd stint in Buffalo

Sack is back for Merriman in 2nd stint in Buffalo

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) It seems like it's been so long since Shawne Merriman got a sack, he can't get the numbers straight.

``What's it been, `09?'' the Buffalo Bills defensive end said Wednesday.

Actually, Merriman overlooked the one he had against Cincinnati during an injury-shortened season with Buffalo last year.

But who's counting? One sack over two seasons for someone who had 39 1/2 in his first three campaigns isn't exactly much to crow about.

What matters is that it wasn't his last one.

A month into his second stint with the Bills (4-6) after the team released him in August, Merriman got an opportunity to reintroduce his sack dance in the final minutes of a 19-14 win over Miami last week. The eighth-year player finished with two tackles for losses - he also stopped running back Daniel Thomas for a 1-yard loss - while being on the field for a season-high 20 plays.

It was enough for coach Chan Gailey to call it Merriman's best performance in two-plus seasons in Buffalo.

``Hopefully he can build on that,'' Gailey said, looking ahead to the game at the Andrew Luck-led Indianapolis Colts (6-4) on Sunday. ``Probably, his confidence has taken a notch up a little bit, so I'm looking forward to see what happens with him as the weeks unfold.''

Merriman's confidence has grown, and the outing against Miami provided him a shot of validation after fearing he had run out of second and third chances of an injury-troubled career.

``It's been a tough road,'' Merriman said. ``Five weeks ago, I wasn't even on a team, and wondering, `When you're going to get that call or why nobody wants to give me a shot?' All those things go through your head. But you have to know that when you get that opportunity you have to take advantage of it.''

The opportunities were dwindling because of injuries that hampered the NFL's 2005 Defensive Rookie of the Year and three-time Pro Bowl selection.

The troubles began in San Diego in 2008, when Merriman was limited to just one game before having reconstructive knee surgery. Then he was nagged by a sore right Achilles tendon, which eventually led to the Chargers waiving him in November 2010.

The Bills claimed Merriman, who didn't make it through his first practice before aggravating the Achilles tendon. He made it through only five games last season before having surgery to repair the tendon.

In the spring he returned to Buffalo feeling rejuvenated, but was the odd man out. He was released in August because the Bills wanted to free up room to develop Kyle Moore.

Merriman spent two months waiting to find a new team before the Bills came calling. They required immediate help to shore up a defensive line that lost starter Mark Anderson (right knee) and backup Spencer Johnson (ankle) over a two-week span.

Merriman had not lost faith in his ability, and yet started to believe others around the NFL began to regard him as being washed up.

``The perception was, `This guy can't even play. He can't rush the passer. He can't be physical. He can't be Shawne Merriman,''' Merriman said. ``That really got under my skin. That upset me more than anything.''

It's unclear what future role Merriman will have with the Bills. Moore is starting in place of Anderson, who is listed as week to week. And veteran defensive end Chris Kelsay is set to return against the Colts after missing two games with a neck injury.

Whatever happens, Merriman has learned to appreciate the chance to play again.

``You know, this is a privilege. It's hard to play in this league, and even harder to stay around,'' Merriman said. ``I feel like I've done that. And now I'm back to where I need to be. And I have to keep on progressing.''

NOTES: FB Corey McIntyre left practice after aggravating a nagging left knee injury. Gailey plans to hold McIntyre out of practice Thursday, but expects him to play Sunday. ... Rookie CB Ron Brooks missed practice after having emergency dental surgery, Gailey said. ... Kelsay (neck) and RB Fred Jackson (concussion) practiced fully and are expected to play. Jackson was cleared to practice for the first time since being hurt in a 37-31 loss at New England on Nov. 11.

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Panthers honor Florida shooting victims before game against Capitals

Panthers honor Florida shooting victims before game against Capitals

Prior to their matchup against the Capitals, the Panthers honored the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Thursday night's game was the Panthers' first game on home ice since the shooting last week. BB&T Center, the home of the Panthers, is located about 20 minutes south of Parkland.

Both teams wore the school’s hat during warmups, and the Panthers will wear the school’s logo on their helmets and “MSD” patches on their jerseys for the rest of the season.

There was a was a moment of silence and ceremony prior to the game, during which the video board showed the pictures and names of all 17 victims.

Following the video Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo, who lives in Parkland, took the ice to give his own moving tribute. 

"It's time for us, as a community, to take action. Enough is enough." Luongo commended the school's teachers and said of the students, "You guys are an inspiration for all of us. You guys are giving us hope for the future." 

"When I'm done playing hockey, I want to spend the rest of my life in Parkland," Luongo said. "I love that city."

In addition to the ceremony and uniform tributes, the Panthers hosted a blood drive beginning at today noon and lasting through the second intermission of the game in an effort to replenish local blood banks.

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5 things to know about new Wizards player Ramon Sessions

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Associated Press

5 things to know about new Wizards player Ramon Sessions

The Washington Wizards signed point guard Ramon Sessions to a 10-day free agent contract on Thursday. Here are five things to know about the newest Wizards player...

**Sessions has played for Washington before. He was acquired by the Wizards at the trade deadline in 2015 and played out the 2014-15 season, appearing in 28 regular season games and 10 more in the playoffs. Sessions then spent the whole 2015-16 season with the team before leaving the following summer to sign a free agent deal with the Charlotte Hornets. In 1 1/2 seasons with the Wizards, Sessions averaged 9.2 points, 3.0 assists and 2.5 rebounds. He shot 46 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from three.

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**Sessions played one season for the Hornets and spent part of this year with the New York Knicks. The Knicks waived Sessions on Jan. 13. Over the past two seasons in Charlotte and New York, Sessions has averaged 5.7 points, 2.5 assists and 1.4 rebounds while shooting 37 percent.

**This is Sessions' 11th NBA season. In addition to the Wizards, Hornets and Knicks, he has spent time with the Bucks, Cavs, Lakers and Kings. He began his career in Milwaukee after getting selected in the second round of the 2007 draft.

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**Sessions went to the University of Nevada from 2004 through 2007 and left an impressive legacy as one of the best players in the program's history. The school's practice facility is, in fact, named after Sessions. It is called the 'Ramon Sessions Basketball Performance Center' and Sessions donated $1 million towards construction costs.

**Sessions overlapped with former Wizards player JaVale McGee at Nevada. Sessions was in his final season as a junior when McGee was a freshman. The Wolfpack were quite good that year. They peaked at No. 10 in the nation, the highest ranking in school history, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

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