© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
This is not about Nick Bosa’s ability or what he will bring to the 49ers’ defensive line if he is healthy. Bosa will immediately impact the game and fundamentally change what the 49ers can do on defense if he’s anywhere near 100 percent. But that assumes Bosa will be that healthy. So far, his track record is less than encouraging.
Bosa tore his ACL, ending his high school career. He tore his left groin at Ohio State, effectively ending his college career (at that point, by choice). And in the first week of OTAs with the 49ers this summer, Bosa pulled his hamstring. Take those facts how you will, but for a position that is especially demanding of quick cuts and explosiveness from the get off, that does not inspire confidence in terms of long-term health.
There is one massive advantage that Bosa has, however: his brother, All-Pro edge rusher Joey Bosa of the San Diego Chargers. Matt Barrows of The Athletic explored in detail just how Joey Bosa (the big bear, as by his @jbbigbear Twitter handle) is helping Nick Bosa (@nbsmallerbear on Twitter) stay healthy this summer and throughout his career, after dealing with similar issues early in his career:
Joey dealt with his own hamstring injury his rookie year that caused him to miss the first four games that season. It was then that he started working with a former strength and conditioning coach named Todd Rice. Joey went on to record 10.5 sacks in 12 games, was voted the league’s defensive rookie of the year and eagerly hired Rice to become, essentially, a full-time physical fitness guru.
Now the two work year-round on a routine Joey holds in near-religious reverence. The regimen emphasizes speed and flexibility, and Joey said that while it’s not an elixir against all injuries — a significant foot injury limited him to seven games last season, for example — soft-tissue issues like hamstring strains no longer are a concern.
He said the plan is for Nick to join him and Rice in South Florida during the month-long break before training camp.“I was very tight. Very tight,” Joey stressed in an interview with The Athletic. “And that’s why I was pulling my hamstring and this and that. I had shoulder pain. A lot of knee pain from being so inflexible. Lower-back pain was pretty consistent. Then all of that stuff kind of vanished. Vanished isn’t the right word because you have to work to get rid of it. But, yeah, there’s been a lot of improvement. I feel very strongly in it and believe very strongly in it, and I want him to do the same. I just want him to do what’s best for his body.”
Joey Bosa believes his younger brother is already more flexible and NFL-ready than him. With the benefit of his tutelage and workout program, that provides a clear path for Nick Bosa to have a long and healthy career, by working to teach pliability to his 6’4″, 267-pound muscle-bound frame. Again, that’s all on paper.
The reality is that for the 49ers’ defense, which was woeful last season, and especially problematic at its front despite having one of the best nose tackles in the league in DeForest Buckner, needs Bosa healthy. Having Bosa and Dee Ford on the edges with Buckner down the middle and Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead sure to be fighting for starters minutes along the line (with Thomas saying that he’s mentally reinvigorated after the death of his sister last season), the 49ers have a very good chance to improve from one of the NFL’s worst defensive line groups to one of the best.
But that all depends on Bosa. The 49ers clearly felt his talent outweighed his injury concerns, but they’ll be wondering, like all 49ers fans this offseason, can he stay healthy?
Note: This piece is part of a countdown to training camp feature which, each day leading up to the start of training camp on July 27, will take a look at one of the 10 biggest questions the 49ers will have to answer this season. While camp officially starts on July 26, the first practice is July 27.
To read Friday’s piece on the 49ers’ secondary questions click here.