SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers are about to see their big defensive additions in action.
Nick Bosa and Dee Ford are preparing to make their debuts when San Francisco opens the season Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Neither played during the preseason because of injuries they suffered during training camp. Ford had knee tendinitis and Bosa had a high-ankle sprain. Both defensive ends have been healthy enough to practice this week.
"It is exciting," defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said Thursday. "We know what it looks like when the guys up front are humming. It's going to be pretty cool."
Bosa was the second pick in the draft this year. He tore a core muscle while playing for Ohio State on Sept. 15 and missed the rest of the season. During the offseason program with the 49ers, Bosa pulled his hamstring on Day 1 and missed the rest of OTAs and minicamp. He lasted eight days during training camp until an offensive lineman fell on his leg and injured his ankle.
Bosa returned to practice this week. The 49ers are confident he will play against the Bucs and Bosa sounded upbeat Thursday in the locker room.
"Practice has felt good the past couple days. Today is probably one of the bigger tests, though. We're putting on pads. I'm still just going day by day. I mean, I'm preparing like I'm playing, of course, but I've just got to be smart with it," he said.
Ford expects to play most of the game against the Buccaneers. "If the clock is ticking, I'm out there as much as I can be unless I need a break," he said.
Ford spent his first five NFL seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. He recorded 13 sacks and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl last season. The 49ers acquired him in a trade during the offseason, sending the Chiefs a 2020 second-round draft pick in return, then giving Ford a five-year, $85.5 million contract extension through 2023.
Despite Ford's large salary and desire to play as much as possible, the 49ers could limit his role. Ford struggled to defend the run while with the Chiefs and the 49ers have several run-stuffing defensive ends, including Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas and Ronald Blair. Ford is a pass-rush specialist, and the 49ers might use him that way.
"That D-Line is very versatile," Saleh said. "We're able to mix and match guys, so we can keep all of them fresh. Not just Dee Ford, not just Bosa, but all of them. It's going to imperative for us as a coaching staff to make sure that our guys are fresh throughout the game."
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