He said he’s mentally ready and, physically, Joey Bosa said he’s in his best shape yet.
Having missed the first half of last season because of a foot injury and then playing at less than 100% when he did return, the Chargers’ defensive end hasn’t been this physically complete since 2017, when he made the Pro Bowl.
And Sunday, when Bosa trots onto the field to face Indianapolis at home in the season opener, he’ll do so feeling better even about his jersey.
In the offseason, he switched from No. 99 to No. 97, returning to what he wore in high school and at Ohio State. Bosa’s father, John, wore No. 97 during his three NFL seasons in the late 1980s.
“I can’t wait,” Bosa said. “It just feels right. It’s weird seeing 99 at this point. Just excited to get out there and play. It seems like it’s been forever.”
It has been nearly eight months for the Chargers, who were last seen slowly walking off the field at Gillette Stadium having been humbled by the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Said quarterback Philip Rivers, “It’s a chance to push that aside and get started again.”
Bosa and his teammates on defense were buried on that chilly afternoon, surrendering 35 first-half points in what became a 41-28 loss.
He finished with one assisted tackle as the Chargers failed to sack Tom Brady and were credited with hitting him only twice.
But now Bosa is healthier and so are the team’s linebackers, suggesting Sunday should look vastly different.
“It’s huge,” Bosa said of his health. “It’s what I’ve been working back toward ever since I hurt my foot. I’m feeling great, feeling really good this week. So I’m definitely ready to go.”
Entering his fourth season, Bosa completed only his second full training camp. The start of his time with the Chargers was delayed by a contract dispute and then he was hurt early in camp a year ago.
He was a full participant in 2017, when he started all 16 games and finished with 12.5 sacks and 60 tackles, both career highs.
Bosa was one of the Chargers veterans who did not play in the preseason as coach Anthony Lynn opted to take a more cautious approach in an attempt to keep the roster healthier.
“I think it’s going to be an advantage for us,” Bosa said. “It’s a lot of wear and tear. It may not seem like a lot … I think Philip Rivers knows how to throw a football at this point … I think it will benefit us. We’ll see.”
There will be another Bosa wearing No. 97 this season, Joey’s younger brother, Nick, readying to make his NFL debut with San Francisco.
Bosa said the family plan for Sunday is for his mother, Cheryl, to attend the Chargers game while John travels to Tampa to watch Nick.
“He’s an animal,” Bosa said of his little brother. “He doesn’t need any tips from me when it comes to D-line play. There’s really nothing he can learn from me. Maybe I can help him with a new move or something. But I learn probably as much from him as he learns from me.”
Williams on rise?
Atop the list of Chargers forecast to potentially take a significant step forward this season is Mike Williams.
Entering his third year, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound wide receiver had a team-high 10 touchdown catches in 2018. But Williams finished with only 43 total receptions — tied for 81st in the league and 54 fewer than teammate Keenan Allen — for 664 yards.
With Tyrell Williams having departed to Oakland via free agency, Williams is expected to assume a larger role.
“To me, he’s never really, really covered,” Rivers said in training camp. “Obviously, you don’t just throw it up all of the time. The percentages aren’t in your favor all of the time, but he has such a catch radius and he’s so big.
“When most guys may look covered and you see him, you go, ‘Well, maybe he has a chance.’…You’ve seen, he’s made some here about every day — big plays. He’s going to be a big part of what we do.”
Safety Derwin James attended the Chargers’ walk-through Thursday. He had surgery Aug. 22 to repair a stress fracture in his right foot and is expected to miss three to four months.
“He’s already excited to get the process moving and get healthy and get back out there,” Bosa said. “His emotions are good. He seems happy. It’s tough … But we’re not worried. Obviously, we’re upset and we’re sad about it, but we’re not worried.”
Adrian Phillips will replace James at strong safety Sunday.
Linebacker Jatavis Brown (ankle), cornerback Trevor Williams (quadriceps), safety Roderic Teamer (hamstring) and wide receiver Geremy Davis (hamstring) didn’t practice. Linebackers Denzel Perryman (ankle) and Drue Tranquill (back) were limited. …Mullet update: Kicker Michael Badgley got a haircut and is now going with a more traditional 2019 look.