Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Nick Bosa ready to turn training camp health into his best season yet

Jul 29, 2022 at 1:58 PM--

Given the success he's had in the NFL to this point, it's easy to forget that 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa hasn't been completely healthy heading into a training camp before this season. But, for the first time, Bosa is at 100 percent at this point in the football calendar, and it could translate into his finest season yet as a 49er.

Bosa dealt with injuries during his first two training camps with the 49ers after being selected with the second overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, then spent last offseason rehabbing from a torn ACL that cost him most of the 2020 season. But he still has two Pro Bowl selections in three years under his belt and put in a dynamite performance in 2021, notching 52 tackles, 15.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.

There are no injuries Bosa has had to worry about so far this year, and as such he's been able to focus purely on getting better. It comes as no coincidence he's been enjoying this year's training camp more than his previous three.

"It's been completely different," Bosa said after practice on Friday. "Last year I didn't really take any reps until a couple weeks before the year. So just being able to get out there and have my body adapt to playing football, it's been the most enjoyable camp I've been a part of because I feel good, which makes everything a lot better."

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has high hopes for Bosa this season as well. Bosa stood out to him at practice on Thursday, and Shanahan thinks the state of his star defensive end's health could lead to improvements throughout the season.

"I was real excited with Nick yesterday getting some team reps and jumping in there," Shanahan said. "He hasn't gotten that since he's been here. The first year, I think he got hurt in like the first week here. The second year he got hurt too but then hurt his ACL in the second game so he didn't get to practice at all last year until week one. This is really the first time I've seen him completely healthy, ready to go. I think his game can even get better the more he practices."

Bosa is also helped by the fact he trains with one of the league's top defensive ends during the offseason in his brother Joey. Nick and Joey both worked under the same defensive line coach in college at Ohio State (Larry Johnson), but Nick thinks his brother is further along with the lessons the two of them were able to learn. As a result, Nick can study his brother to figure out ways he can get better.

"Just his finesse, the way he wiggles and uses his hands and how violent he is with his hands," Bosa said of his brother Joey. "He's just super technically sound with all the stuff we learned in college from Coach J. He wouldn't say that, but he's definitely the teach tape for the technique that we use."

The two of them choose to train away from their teams when they come together in their hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But when it comes time for Nick to return to the 49ers and Joey to return to the Chargers, both of them are fully prepared. Shanahan doesn't seem to be exactly sure what the two of them do during their training sessions in Florida, but he doesn't seem to mind as long as it's working.

"I've got a good idea just talking to him about it and stuff," Shanahan said. "I know he's real close with Joey, so they like to spend that time together. I don't know Joey very well, but I'm sure they're very similar. They're as committed to their craft as anyone I've been around. They do have a plan."

Nick shed some light Friday on what he and Joey do during their average day in the offseason, and it's nothing too out of the ordinary. But this year was a bit different in that the two of them made sure to take some time to go out on the ocean in Nick's boat.

"Four days out of the week it's pretty boring -- wake up, run," Nick said. "Joey built the gym in Fort Lauderdale so we have our own spot we train at. I go home, I go to the pool, go upstairs and read a little bit, take care of my body. The weekdays are pretty much exactly the same. I have my chef come over and make food. Then the weekend, this offseason was a lot of boating, so Saturdays were our days to have fun."

After training with his brother Joey, Nick then has the luxury of going up against the NFL's top left tackle in Trent Williams once he returns to the 49ers. But that doesn't necessarily mean he wants to face off against Williams every single day. With Williams missing the first two days of training camp due to the birth of his child, Bosa has been testing the team's backups. It's given him a chance to test some moves he won't attempt against Williams due to Williams' ability to make those moves fail.

"When I came in, just being able to switch sides and just being able to get taste of each guy, because going against Trent is obviously super-helpful to me, but there's a lot things I won't be able to use against him because he takes those things away," Bosa said. "So going against some of the backups, who are also good players, allows me to bring out all my tools and hone everything in before the year."

Facing the backups means Bosa may have a better chance of getting in the backfield during practice and chasing down young starting quarterback Trey Lance. But Shanahan isn't worried about Bosa pressuring Lance because of his ability to pull up and not cause any contact.

"I don't care because Nick is such a good athlete he gets by the quarterback then gets away," Shanahan said. "So he's definitely stopping them most of the plays he's in, but it usually doesn't stop the play. He's one of the best guys at getting there and not running into anybody. Most of the better athletes are. If you had 22 guys out there like that, it'd be much easier not to get guys hurt. It's also great not always going against Trent. There's certain moves Nick wants to try, but he's very smart. There's some things he won't try versus (Trent) that he might try versus (Colton) McKivitz or he might try versus (Mike) McGlinchey. It switches back and forth, so it's good for him to change it up."

Bosa and the 49ers begin padded practices on Monday, but he says practices have had plenty of physicality this week even without pads. It's helped him work on one of his goals for the 2022 season, which is to get better as an edge rusher.

"We're hitting out there, whether we have pads on or not," Bosa said. "It's pretty much the same thing, but definitely more power rushes will be used once the pads come on. I kind of like the days without pads because it forces me to use finesse moves, which sometimes I get away from throughout the season because my power works a lot. These two days that I've practiced I've been able to work a lot of edge rushes. That's something I'd like to improve on this year, so that's good."

Still, while Bosa still has room to get better over the next few weeks, don't expect him to change up his game too much. He feels he's right where he needs to be in terms of his skills, with the next step being perfection of the areas in which he excels. If he does that, 49ers opponents will be in for an even bigger headache than before when Bosa is on the opposite side of the field.

"I'm not going to add too many more things, I think even throughout my whole career," Bosa said. "I think I have the tools. I just have to perfect everything. Me and my brother had a bunch of good work this year, more so than last year for both of us. Just watching him work and hearing what he had to say about the moves we learned in college and still use now and seeing the level that he's at, using those moves kind of reminded me there's a lot of improvement I still need to get to."

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