Chargers' Joey Bosa: 'I'm as fast and strong' as ever

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  • By Adam Maya NFL.com
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Original number, original Joey Bosa?

The Los Angeles Chargers pass rusher showed up for the beginning of organized team activities this week sporting a No. 97 jersey rather than the 99 he wore his first three years in the league.

"I've been just meaning to do that for a while now," Bosa said, per Joe Reedy of the Associated Press. "It's just a cool tradition. I'd like to keep it going."

Bosa wore 97 in both high school and at Ohio State, his father, John, wore it while in the NFL and his brother, Nick, wore it for the Buckeyes and will do so with the San Francisco 49ers. Joey Bosa said he wanted to change numbers last year but held off because it would have cost him $500,000. There's no price tag on the swap this year because the Chargers are switching to powder blue jerseys as their primary home uniform.

What Bosa and the Chargers don't want to change is his level of play. The 2017 Pro Bowler and 2016 Defensive Rookie of the Year has collected 28.5 sacks and 35 tackles for loss in 35 career games. The catch is he's missed 13 games because of injury, including the first nine last year with a bruised left foot. It hasn't made him apprehensive in OTAs thus far.

"He looks awesome," Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. "He feels really good. So, to get him back on the field -- just that brotherhood part where the guys are together again -- I think that's important. You can always count on him. It's great to see him. He looks to be in great shape."

Bosa told reporters he's still dealing with soreness but his foot is well enough for him to avoid a Lisfranc-type surgery and currently faces no restrictions.

"It's not causing a limp or anything," he said. "It's just there. It's just something I notice. It's been getting better all offseason, so I could definitely see by camp or maybe even next year where it kind of starts fading away. Once you get into season, it gets pretty intense, so we'll see."

Bosa finished strong in 2018 despite the foot injury, recording 5.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss in just seven games. After training in Florida during the first four weeks of the Chargers' offseason program, the 23-year-old defensive end sounded re-energized to be back in L.A. with his teammates. He noted he's leaner but has added muscle to his 270-pound frame, suggesting we could see an even better version of him in Year 4 -- health permitting.

"I'm as fast and strong as I've ever been in my life," Bosa said, via the team's website. "It's just about some little things like my hands and stuff, but as a defensive lineman, you're going to deal with that stuff. I just have to take care of myself in that sense, tape up and keep doing what I'm doing. ...

"It's a good time to knock the rust off and get practicing with your hands and pass-rush. If you miss all of this and you show up in camp, you're rusty then. You want to be rolling by that point."

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