SANTA CLARA — Nick Bosa wore metallic gold Jordan brand cleats most of training camp. They brightly reflected the Santa Clara sunshine, and they dug into the 49ers’ sod as he test drove his rebuilt left knee.
This week, he’s donned a couple of different styles of cleats.
What will he wear to Sunday’s welcome-back party, when the 49ers open the season in Detroit against the Lions? More to the point, how considerate must he be with his footwear after an anterior cruciate ligament repair?
His answer reflects his carefree state of mind and full-steam-ahead confidence.
“I’m not a believer that cleats are going to make any difference in any injury of that type,” Bosa said after Thursday’s practice. “I’ve just been switching cleats because I’m trying to preserve the pairs I have, so I just switch them.
“I was trying to break in the ones I’m going to wear in the game. I’m wearing the same ones as last year, and I don’t think that has any effect, to be honest.”
A greater effect, in his mind, was MetLife Stadium’s synthetic turf, where his knee buckled on the 11th snap of a road-opening win over the New York Jets on Sept. 20. As much as he favors natural grass, Bosa noted he is “not afraid” to play on artificial surfaces, such as those awaiting in the 49ers’ first two games, at Detroit and Philadelphia.
Bosa’s ACL recovery has gone so well that he says he’s not on any sort of “pitch count” for Sunday’s game
“I’m just going to go whenever Kris (Kocurek, the defensive line coach) tells me,” Bosa said.
“I’m fully confident to play as many snaps as I need to.”
He’ll apparently do so in the red, white and black Jordan hightops he wore last season, after a custom pair “didn’t work out.”
“So I’m back to the ones that feel the best for me,” Bosa said. “It’s all about comfort. I’m not trying for swag or anything like that.”
Nor is he into looking beyond each week and announcing this season’s goals, though he did confirm his team-low body fat of 9 percent when camp began. No. 97 is most definitely in shape.
“A lot of the stuff I was going to add to my game last year, obviously I wasn’t able to,” Bosa added. “This year I have that and even more. I think it’ll be a good year.”
All of which leads to expectations of the playmaking form that made him the 2019 NFL defensive rookie of the year.
“He has skills and moves that usually take five or six years to develop,” former 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith said on 95.7 The Game’s “Morning Roast.”
Smith raved about Bosa’s power, speed and “such bend in his hips,” adding: “He’s going to be a catalyst for them up front. If he comes back strong and rips and runs, he’s going to raise the level of play across that whole defense.”
Linebacker Fred Warner’s apt description of Bosa: “He’s a game wrecker.”
“I know he’s going to be an absolute menace out there,” older brother Joey Bosa said after last month’s practice between his Chargers and the 49ers.
Bosa’s presence was felt throughout 2019 as he appeared in every game, even after enduring hamstring and ankle injuries in the preceding offseason, not to mention core muscle surgery the previous fall to cap his Ohio State career.
Bosa and the 49ers will face a Lions line that could be juggling its starting tackles. Taylor Decker (finger) did not practice Thursday, but Bosa still expects to face him, as well as first-round draft pick Penei Sewell.
“Bosa’s looking great. He’s done a phenomenal job,” defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said. “… He’s worked extremely hard and put himself in position to go Week 1. I’m very fired up. It’s a really big day for him.”
A comeback player of the year crown would parlay into big bucks as soon as next year when Bosa becomes eligible for a contract extension.
The Pittsburgh Steelers made T.J. Watt the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player (four years, $112 million) with an extension Thursday. “I just saw it on Instagram. A big one,” Bosa said of the contract Watt got after a league-high 15 sacks last year.
LANCE STILL LIMITED
Rookie Trey Lance is throwing well after his Aug. 29 right finger injury and he looks capable of debuting Sunday.
“He’s still limited. He looked good but we’re very hesitant to get ahead of ourselves,” offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel said.
McDaniel said the 49ers can’t pigeonhole themselves into Lance being available or not, for what likely would be cameos doing zone-read plays this staff first implemented in Washington in 2012 with Robert Griffin III.
“It was a big transition in all our careers. At that point, none of us in staff had experience in quarterback zone-read stuff,” McDaniel said. “We were studying Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos, and they were the only team doing it and out of the pistol. It was at a very cool part of my career: let’s think outside the box and do things that make sense and are sound.”
Safety Jimmie Ward shrugged off not being a captain his first seven seasons because he felt he led by example on the field. “So I (didn’t) really care about wearing the ‘C’ (captain’s patch),” Ward said. “But guys tell me, ‘That’s important. You should take it seriously.’ ”
Wednesday, Ward was announced as a first-time captain, as was running back Raheem Mostert, as they joined returning captains Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, Trent Williams, Fred Warner and Arik Armstead. “It’s an accomplishment every player in the NFL will want to have,” Ward said.
— Cornerback Emmanuel Moseley (knee) worked on the side then jumped in an ice tub as he missed a third straight practice.
— Defensive tackles Javon Kinlaw (knee) and Kevin Givens (hip) returned to practice in limited roles.
— Wide receiver Jalen Hurd (knee) indeed appears to be shut down and headed toward injured reserve, as coach Kyle Shanahan alluded to Wednesday.
— Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring) again practiced in full, and he remains an option to return punts along with “several” other candidates, said special teams coordinator Richard Hightower, who noted: “We’ll always play the guy we feel gives us the best chance to win.”