The San Francisco 49ers certainly received a jolt of good news ahead of the start of training camp. On Tuesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan revealed the news of three key players who are scheduled to make unbarred returns to the field: Dee Ford, Jalen Hurd and defensive standout, Nick Bosa.
Just as significant is the fact that, barring any setbacks, the former Defensive Rookie of the Year plans to be on the field when the 49ers open the season on Sept. 12 against the Detroit Lions.
"I looked at the schedule. But I knew (since) it was an early injury that I, for the most part, would probably be ready to go for Week 1. And everything right now is trending towards that," Bosa told the media on Thursday.
The play and presence of a player like Bosa isn't necessarily easy to replace. Bosa was dominant in his first year in San Francisco. The edge rusher racked up a record-setting season where he registered 9.0 sacks, the fourth-most by a 49ers rookie since 1982, along with 47 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries through 16 games. He was graded as the third-best edge defender in the entire league, regardless of experience by Pro Football Focus.
Expected to build off of his historic performance, Bosa's sophomore campaign was interrupted following a season-ending ACL tear in Week 2 of 2020.
Since, Bosa has been rehabbing under the guidance of his doctor and the 49ers staff, and appears to be in-line for a timely recovery. Ahead of camp, Bosa passed his physical and was cleared to return to return to the field.
"Since I've been out here, (my knee has) responded amazing. We're going to take it slow, but I'm very encouraged," Bosa said on Thursday. "I'm pretty patient with it. I know it was a big injury but it's going to pay off taking it slow… I'm very confident in how I'm going to feel out there on the field this year."
His return to practice was anything but an easy road for the defensive lineman. Despite suffering two season-ending injuries during his time at Ohio State (groin, torn ACL), coming off of the high of his record-breaking first year in the NFL wasn't just a physical struggle, but mental as well.
"(It's) always a really tough time when you come off 2019 and you're on the top of the world and then start off well in your next season and it's all taken away really quick. And it was tough," Bosa said. "Mentally it's really rough and when your body feels terrible your mind kind of goes to that place, but I had my mom and brother taking care of me.
"As my body started to feel better, my mind followed. And then once you're walking around and working out, all I really know how to do is work hard. Once you get past the initial pain of it then there's really no other option but to come back better."
For precautionary measures, the 49ers are easing Bosa, who is just 10 months removed from injury, back into the fold. Shanahan alluded to limiting Bosa to just individual drills at the start of camp before re-acclimating him into full speed team drills.
One of the benefits of returning to the field during camp is Bosa's opportunity to line up again across from San Francisco's Pro Bowl left tackle, Trent Williams. The back-and-forth battle between two of the league's elite was one of the marquee events of last year's camp. For Williams, who was returning to the field after missing the entire 2019 campaign, Bosa was the perfect litmus test for the offensive lineman's comeback. This time around, it's the ideal barometer for the defensive lineman.
"You won't really know how (my knee) responds until you take a real rep and have a big offensive lineman pushing on you and all that stuff," Bosa continued. "So, we're trying to simulate it as much as possible right now and my body's responding really well. So, once I get out there and go against Trent a few times, I think it'll be a pretty quick confidence boost.
"You really wouldn't want to have it any other way than practicing against the best so that it prepares you well for Sundays."
Take a look at the best photos from the second practice of 49ers training camp presented by SAP.