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Column: It’s clear to Chargers’ Joey Bosa now that concussion left him in serious fog

Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa lines up against the Denver Broncos on Nov. 1.
Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa lines up against the Denver Broncos on Nov. 1 before he suffered a concussion and missed two games.
(Associated Press)

Defensive end Joey Bosa has no recollection of the play that knocked him out of the Chargers’ game at Denver on Nov. 1 and dropped a curtain of fog and uncertainty onto his life.

“I was told I was kneed in the head. I remember arriving here on the bus and that’s about it,” he said Thursday during a remote interview from the team’s Costa Mesa practice facility as he recounted his concussion experience.

Nor is the two-time Pro Bowl pick inclined to search for that hit on video or otherwise be reminded of the Chargers’ chaotic collapse in their 31-30 loss to the Broncos.

“I didn’t really want to watch that game at all. Just kind of how it ended and knowing that I wasn’t able to finish and help my team at the end of the game there, it was tough,” he said. “And also, with the concussion, seeing myself go limp on the floor isn’t something that I really want to look at. I decided to not look for it.”

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Bosa cleared the NFL’s concussion protocols in time to practice Wednesday, though he said he had felt fine for a few days. He’s eligible to play Sunday when the 2-7 Chargers face the 0-9 New York Jets at SoFi Stadium, and he knows he will be fortunate if his detour into the frightening world of traumatic brain injuries costs him nothing more than missing two games.

“I was pretty out of it when I woke up that first morning,” the 25-year-old Florida native said. “I woke up from a dream, it felt like.”

After missing two games in concussion protocol, Joey Bosa is set to return Sunday when the Chargers face the winless New York Jets at SoFi Stadium.

Even so-called mild concussions can have lingering effects and are known to raise the risk for subsequent concussions. Bosa said this was his first one in his four-plus NFL seasons but had suffered one long ago.

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“I think the actual damage to your brain affects your mood so much that it’s kind of hard,” he said. “You kind of just have to sit through those few days. You know you’re going to feel kind of weird.”

He had many of the classic symptoms, including anxiety, sensitivity to noise and light, and a feeling of slowing down. He slept a lot and watched only a little TV. He also wore blue-light glasses, which a U.S. military-funded study — published earlier this year in the scientific journal Neurobiology of Disease — found can aid concussion sufferers by helping them stay awake in the daytime and restore brain-healing sleep patterns at night.

Bosa’s younger brother Nick, who is a defensive end for the 49ers recovering from a torn ACL, has been keeping him company and helped him get through the worst of it.

“I’m sure my brother can attest that I was a little agitated for a few days,” Bosa said. “This injury, I think it’s more important than any other injury. It’s your health long term, and you see so many people losing their minds and there’s so many people around me that have been losing their fathers from brain diseases and it’s a scary thing to think of. It’s the one thing that I always say, I have to make sure I take enough time and then be safe with this ...

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Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert know his outing against the Miami Dolphins’ defense last week has prepared him against the New Your Jets’ defense.

“It’s definitely opened my eyes more. I have, over the last year, been more serious about my mental health and taking care of myself that way, but this has kind of just woken me up again and made it a point to me that I have to focus and do a better job outside of football with reading, or whatever it may be, to strengthen my brain, help my memory, and make sure I get a jump on this early.”

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said he had seen Bosa make solid progress in recent days: “I know now, compared to where he was last week, he seems like a different person.

“What do we expect of him? We just need to see. How many plays are we going to get out of him, what’s his conditioning level like, how does he feel. He seems to be back, and his mind-set is good.”

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Bosa, who had 4 1/2 sacks, 18 tackles and four assisted tackles in seven games, can’t be effective if he plays scared. He can play smart, which he thought he was doing until he took that hit in Denver. The best preparation and techniques can’t guard against all of the risks of playing a contact sport.

“I always played kind of safe around piles with my head or anything because obviously I don’t want to just take myself out like I did,” he said. “It’s crazy because I really don’t remember how it happened. So I don’t know what to do differently to help.”

One change he’s considering is trying a different helmet. His current model is considered the second-safest, he said, and he’s open to upgrading.

A lot of matters have gone wrong for the Chargers in this strange year, so seems coach Anthony Lynn should get a chance to right this sinking ship.

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“They recently came out with one that’s better but this is the top tier of helmets and I’ve been wearing that for years now,” he said. “Maybe I’ll talk to them. I don’t think the other one is that much safer, but if there is technology that comes out that’s proven to be safer I’ll definitely switch to that.”

Getting hurt again wasn’t on his mind when he returned to practice.

“I’m going to stress keeping my head up and tackling correctly and keep learning how to play football the right way, seeing as we’ve been taught to hit with our heads most of our life,” he said. “Yeah, I think it won’t really get in my head too much.”

He doesn’t need to see that replay to know how fortunate he is to be playing again.


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