San Francisco 49ers' Nick Bosa says he's on target for 2021 season opener

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- If all goes according to plan between now and Sept. 12, defensive end Nick Bosa will be on the field and ready to play against the Detroit Lions in the San Francisco 49ers' season opener.

Bosa, who spoke to Bay Area media for the first time since before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last September, left little doubt Thursday that, barring any unforeseen setbacks, he will be ready to go to start the 2021 season.

"I looked at the schedule, but I knew when it was an early injury [last year], for the most part, I would probably be ready to go for Week 1," Bosa said. "And everything right now is trending towards that. So I'm hoping to ramp it up as I go and be ready to give it all I got Week 1."

In the opening days of Niners' training camp, Bosa has been working in individual drills but has been held out of one-on-one pass rush and team portions of practice. He arrived at camp weighing around 260 pounds, down from the 263-265 he played at in 2019, in hopes that he would be able to add a little bit more quickness upon his return. He said he's "moving better than I ever have right now."

Bosa won the 2019 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award after posting 47 tackles, nine sacks, 16 tackles for loss and 60 quarterback pressures. A promising start to 2020 was derailed by the knee injury against the New York Jets in Week 2 and led to a long recovery process away from his team.

After knee surgery, Bosa spent much of his time with his brother Joey, his family and his girlfriend in Southern California and back home in Florida. The tedious rehabilitation and the absence of football left Bosa's mind wandering at times.

"My mind did go to some dark places, especially when football's a really big part of your life," Bosa said. "And now it just makes you appreciate your family more."

Bosa also said he has grappled with the decision on whether to get the COVID-19 vaccination. He arrived at his Thursday media session wearing a mask and is taking part in the NFL's required protocols for unvaccinated players.

"I'm just evaluating everything right now," Bosa said. "I haven't made a decision quite yet. But following the protocols and see where it goes."

As for when Bosa will take part in full practices, there is no firm timetable just yet. But he has left teammates and coaches impressed with where he's at in the process.

"Nick takes care of himself and better than anyone I've ever been around," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "The guy has got a one-track mind and it's awesome. So, you knew he'd come in great. And now it's just about, you've got to know how much time it's been since the injury. Him moving and looking like the player is, isn't an issue. It's just about building it up the right way. ... We'll take our time with him and be smart."