49ers defensive end Nick Bosa intends to play in opener

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa has been back with his team for only two days, but he left no doubt Friday that he intends to play Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I’m confident,” Bosa said. “I’m not sure what [coach] Kyle [Shanahan’s] plan is, but I would be up for [a] normal workload, for sure.”

Bosa, speaking to Bay Area media for the first time since signing a record-setting five-year, $170 million contract extension that includes $122.5 million in guarantees Friday morning, took part in practice on a limited basis Thursday and then was listed as a full participant in San Francisco’s half-speed Friday session.

On Wednesday, Shanahan indicated he expected Bosa to play Sunday, joking that the only way that wouldn’t happen is if Bosa showed up with a “beer belly.” That did not happen and the Niners were sufficiently pleased with how Bosa returned after a 43-day holdout.

“He looked exactly how we were expecting him to look,” Shanahan said. “Looks in real good shape. Looks ready to go. We got an idea how we’re going to use him and I think he’ll do all right.”

As for how much Bosa will play against the Steelers, that remains to be seen. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said Thursday that would be determined by how the game goes.

“It is not really trying to put a limit on what he can do,” Wilks said. “It’s just trying to get a feel, and once we get into the game and then go from there.”

In the bigger picture, Bosa expressed excitement and relief that he will get to play his snaps for the 49ers well beyond Sunday’s game. After his 2022 Defensive Player of the Year campaign, Bosa said multiple times he was confident a new contract would be hammered out either before or right after training camp opened on July 25.

With no deal in hand, Bosa spent the past six weeks at home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, while his agent, Brian Ayrault, negotiated the largest contract in terms of annual value and guarantees for a non-quarterback in NFL history.

The waiting game made for some tense moments, up to and including wondering whether a deal would even get done, Bosa acknowledged.

“There’s certain points throughout it that are more stressful than others,” Bosa said. “But I trust the team around me and I know that they have my best interest in mind. And I trusted the 49ers organization and all of them to work well with my guys. I had trust all along, but it definitely was stressful.”

After the deal was completed early Wednesday evening, Bosa flew to the Bay Area and arrived late that night. He did some work on the side and individual drills in Thursday’s practice and followed up by doing a little bit more Friday, though that practice is conducted at more of a walk-through pace.

To make room for Bosa, the Niners released veteran defensive end Austin Bryant on Friday. Bosa will be activated on Saturday.

With Bosa back in the fold, the Niners enter the opener relatively healthy. The team had 13 players listed on the injury report this week, but only two were not cleared to go on Friday’s final status report.

Tight end George Kittle (groin) and cornerback Charvarius Ward (heel) are listed as questionable for Sunday. Both players were limited in Friday’s practice. Kittle was a limited participant in all three practices this week. Among the players who are cleared to play after dealing with injuries this week: safety Talanoa Hufanga (knee), kicker Jake Moody (quad), safety Tashaun Gipson (back), linebacker Oren Burks (knee), running back Jordan Mason (foot) and receiver/returner Ray-Ray McCloud (wrist).

That should put Moody, the No. 99 pick in this year’s NFL draft, in line to handle kicking duties in his first regular-season game, answering one of the team’s biggest injury questions coming out of the preseason.

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