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Chargers’ Joey Bosa returns from injury ‘feeling better than I have in years’

Chargers linebacker Joey Bosa (97) warms up before a game in September.
After missing most of the season, Chargers linebacker Joey Bosa (97) was activated off injured reserve Thursday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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The Chargers are about to get Joey Bosa back — and then some.

The four-time Pro Bowl edge rusher practiced Thursday for the first time since suffering a torn core muscle in Week 3.

This was good news for the Chargers.

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Even better news for the team: Bosa afterward revealed he had been dealing with pain over the last two years and that his recent surgery has him “feeling better than I have in years, honestly.”

Bosa explained that the chronic issues have been on his left side and the tear happened on his right side, likely the result of compensating. He said the surgery corrected both problems.

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He said he reached “a point where I was used to it, and I didn’t understand how much was really wrong. Obviously, it sucks to miss all this time. But, honestly, it’s something that I really, really needed to get done.”

As for him returning to a game, Bosa suggested he could play Sunday against the Rams, though he said he would leave that decision to the coaches.

“But I think I’m feeling really good,” he said, “and I kind of made it a point not to come back until I felt confident in myself being able to perform in a game.”

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After a season filled with up-and-down performances, the Chargers’ defense has excelled the last three weeks, while also playing largely without star safety Derwin James Jr.

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The Chargers have surrendered only 34 points during a three-game winning streak that included clinching a postseason berth Monday in a 20-3 victory at Indianapolis.

The return of a healthy — and rested — Bosa should boost both the Chargers’ pass rush and run defense. His presence also figures to only help seven-time Pro Bowl player Khalil Mack on the opposite edge.

Defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill said the Chargers’ opponents are going to be left choosing between sending help to block Bosa or Mack, freeing up the other in more one-on-one scenarios.

“When it’s their chance to get their opportunities, I think that they make the best of it,” Hill said. “They know that they need each other in order for those things to take shape.”

The Colts' Michael Pittman Jr. loses his helmet as he is tackled by Chargers  Derwin James Jr. (3) and Drue Tranquill.
The Colts’ Michael Pittman Jr. (11) loses his helmet as he is tackled by Chargers Derwin James Jr. (3) and Drue Tranquill (49). James sustained a concussion during the game.
(AJ Mast / Associated Press)

Bosa and Mack were able to play together for only two-plus games before Bosa went down against Jacksonville. Mack still performed well enough to make another Pro Bowl.

With the Chargers gearing up for the playoffs, Bosa is coming back just in time to regain his conditioning before the franchise plays its biggest game since the 2018 season.

“We’re in a great place as a team,” Bosa said. “It’s really good timing. … We’re playing really well and that’s with the lack of some really key players. So I think it will just get better.”

This is the most extended time Bosa has missed since being out for the first nine games of the 2018 season because of a foot injury.

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He indicated that he feels significantly better this time around because he was able to train harder during rehabilitation and also had a clearer timeline since core-muscle injuries are more common.

Bosa also had his brother, Nick, to rely on. Now a star pass rusher for the San Francisco 49ers, Nick Bosa had core-muscle problem during his final season at Ohio State.

Explaining that he had felt “serious pain doing pretty much anything” the last two years, Bosa said he and his trainer, Todd Rice, have been trying to avoid getting too excited about how well he has been performing lately.

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Bosa said his times and measurements have reached levels he hasn’t seen in some time. He called the recovery process “revitalizing” given the decidedly positive results.

“We kind of just laugh and shake our heads out there,” Bosa said, “and try not to get giddy or anything.”

With one of their stars on the verge of returning, the entire Chargers franchise likely can relate.

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James (concussion protocol) and running back Austin Ekeler (knee) were limited in practice Thursday. Both were injured Monday against the Colts. ... Fullback Zander Horvath (ankle) also was limited.

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