49ers

Nick Bosa details injury that cut short his final season at Ohio State

Nick Bosa details injury that cut short his final season at Ohio State

Nick Bosa, pass-rushing from the right edge, went down as he tried to bend around the corner. He immediately knew something was terribly wrong.

Bosa comes from a football family, and football is his passion. He expected great things in what would be his final season at Ohio State. But, in a split second, it was over.

“When it happened, when I got home from that TCU game, I was laying in bed, I could barely get up,” he said of the left groin injury he sustained Sept. 15. “It was one of the darkest moments of my life so far.”

Bosa underwent surgery within a week to repair what his surgeon, Dr. William C. Meyers of Philadelphia, diagnosed as a bilateral core muscle injury.

“It’s a groin, lower abdomen thing,” Bosa said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “He repairs both sides because if you don’t repair both sides, then you risk the other side getting injured. I didn’t feel an injury on the other side, but they go in and clean it up. They stitch it up.”

The injury was particularly difficult to cope with, Bosa said, because it was constantly on his mind and impacted his most routine and mundane activities.

“The toughest part is the beginning,” Bosa said. “It’s such a unique injury in that it’s literally the muscle used to breathe, to cough, to go to the bathroom. It’s your core muscle. It’s something different than what I’ve dealt with before.

“It’s really gradual, small steps. Once you get through it, I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt right now.”

[RELATED: Bosa's power, bend are what 49ers want from edge rusher]

Bosa has returned to 100 percent health and competed in all of the on-field drills at the combine Sunday. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 29 times and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.79 seconds

One month after his surgery, Bosa withdrew from school to begin preparing for the NFL draft, rather than attempt to rush back onto the field too quickly and risk further injury. His spirits began to pick up over time, he said.

“For me to talk to my family and let them bring me up and let me know that my life is still good and I still have amazing blessings and a bright future, that’s what helped me get through it,” Bosa said.

Bosa lived with his brother, Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, in Orange County during the season. He's now back home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he continued his training and draft preparations at a deliberate pace.

“I knew I was going to have plenty of time to just take it slow,” said Bosa, who started jogging approximately two months after the surgery. “It was just a slow process. You break down scar tissue. You feel pops and stuff, which is not fun. You have to get all your flexibility back. Your abs are all mushy. Not fun.”

While his decision to leave Ohio State was seen in some circles as controversial, Bosa said he received full support from his college teammates and coaches, as well as NFL teams that were briefed on the details of his injury, surgery and rehabilitation. Even though Bosa said the decision was his only reasonable option, it still was difficult and agonizing.

“It was the year that I been waiting for my whole career,” said Bosa, who recorded three sacks in the first two-plus games before the injury. “I kind of split reps my freshman and sophomore years. Coming in, I was going to be the guy. I started strong my first three games, and it just got torn away from me. It’s something that I’ll always think back to.”

Bosa was considered the consensus most likely pick for the No. 1 overall spot in the draft for most of the past year. But Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray decided to focus on football over baseball, and the Arizona Cardinals appear to be a serious potential landing spot for Murray to run first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.

The odds are better than they’ve ever been that Bosa will be available when the 49ers select at No. 2 overall. The 49ers’ biggest need in the draft is an edge rusher. If the 49ers acquire Bosa, he would be expected to be an every-down defensive end from the moment he arrives in Santa Clara.

[RELATED: Bosa's value goes beyond measurables]

Bosa is confident the particular injury that truncated his dream season no longer will be an issue during his NFL career.

“This is one of the injuries that once you get it fixed, it’s pretty guaranteed to be good,” he said.

Whichever team gets Bosa will add a hungry player. He appeared in just 29 games over parts of his three seasons at Ohio State, recording 17.5 sacks. Bosa did not have the opportunity to show how great he could become at the college level.

Now, he will just have to prove himself in the NFL.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. "I haven’t played football in quite some time."

Chiefs' Anthony Hitchens says he didn't pick on 49ers' George Kittle at Iowa

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Chiefs' Anthony Hitchens says he didn't pick on 49ers' George Kittle at Iowa

MIAMI – George Kittle can’t wait to put a hit into Anthony Hitchens during Super Bowl LIV. The 49ers tight end is a tenacious run blocker, and loves going head’s up against defenders while clearing a path in the 49ers run game.

The Kansas City Chiefs weakside linebacker apparently has a target on his back. Kittle has his sights set on Hitchens after he picked on him with both guys played at the University of Iowa. Kittle said Hitchens bullied him a bit – it was a lighthearted accusation – during practices.

Hitchens doesn’t remember it exactly that way, and says they’ll have a fun rivalry going on during Sunday’s Super Bowl.

I was just doing my job,” Hitchens said Monday at Super Bowl Opening Night. “It was nothing crazy or out of the ordinary. We have the same agent and we stay in contact. He’s a good guy and an excellent player who works really hard. I’m looking forward to going up against him.

“I did back at Iowa. I definitely wouldn’t say I was bullying him in practice. But life can be rough sometimes. when you’re 180 pounds playing tight end in the Big Ten.”

Kittle isn’t 180 pounds anymore. He’s 249 now, and comes with a nasty streak.

While Kittle has grown physically and as a player since the 49ers made him a fifth-round NFL draft pick out of Iowa, Hitchens says he saw great potential in Kittle when they were Hawkeyes.

Oh definitely. When you run routes like he can from the tight end position, you’re going to be special. Only a couple of guys in the league can do what he does. We have a guy like that in Travis Kelce. They have one with George. All that receiving talent, plus his great ability to block, that’s hard to do in this league.

“He was running great routes and beating guys as a freshman. I knew then that he had great potential. He matched that with hard work and a great mindset and he has fun with it. That’s what makes him so unique.”

49ers' Emmanuel Sanders thinks Ben Roethlisberger 'bridge is burnt'

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AP

49ers' Emmanuel Sanders thinks Ben Roethlisberger 'bridge is burnt'

Emmanuel Sanders has one game left with the 49ers before becoming an unrestricted free agent, and he said he would welcome a reunion with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Sanders told The Athletic's Ed Bouchette on Monday that he'd be able to envision himself re-joining the Steelers after Super Bowl LIV -- if he still had a relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. 

“I would love that, but me and Ben don’t have the best relationship," Sanders told Bouchette. "I believe that bridge is burnt.”

Sanders signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos in 2014, linking up with legendary quarterback Peyton Manning. During his first training camp, Sanders said Manning was a "far better leader" than Roethlisberger, knocking Roethlisberger's work ethic while praising Manning's. The 32-year-old receiver admitted to Bouchette that he thinks Roethlisberger "has grown up a lot" since their acrimonious time together. 

Roethlisberger, 37, has said he intends to play in 2020. The Steelers might soon have an eye to the future at the position, but Roethlisberger's presence as Pittsburgh's starting QB seemingly would scuttle any chance of a reunion in the Steel City.

Though Sanders caught 36 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games with the 49ers this season after being acquired in a midseason trade, San Francisco faces an offseason of contract dilemmas that could preclude the receiver returning. Tight end George Kittle and defensive lineman DeForest Buckner are eligible for contract extensions, while safety Jimmie Ward and D-lineman Arik Armstead can become unrestricted free agents.

Kittle and Buckner's extensions are priorities, and the 49ers likely will make the pair two of the highest-paid players at their respective positions. Salary-cap realities might force the 49ers' hand, especially with young receivers on rookie contracts like Deebo Samuel, Jalen Hurd -- who missed the entirety of the 2019 season with a back injury -- and Dante Pettis waiting in the wings.

[RELATED: What Mahomes believes makes 49ers defense so challenging] 

Still, Sanders told Bouchette he has enjoyed his short time as a 49er. If Sunday's Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs marks his last game with the team before free agency, he wants to go out in style. 

“I couldn’t hope for a better situation than to end up with Niners,” Sanders said. “But at the same time, there was pressure too because they were undefeated (at the time of the trade) and I didn’t want to be the reason they don’t go undefeated. It feels good to know I was able to make the necessary plays when they called my number and help get to the Super Bowl. Now we have to win it.”