SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers began their first game week preparation of the season with their best defensive player nowhere to be found.
Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa's contract holdout that kept him out of all of training camp is now seriously threatening to last into the regular season as the two sides have been unable to come to a resolution.
“We just have to play with who we’ve got," All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga said Monday. “We’d love to have Bosa, obviously. That’s a no-brainer. Best defensive player in the NFL and it shows. We just have to prepare as if he’s not going to be here. That’s an upper-echelon, that’s a front-office question. I don’t know if I can answer more on that. Once he’s here we’d love to have him.”
For now, the Niners will prepare for the opener at Pittsburgh on Sunday with Drake Jackson and Clelin Ferrell as the starters at defensive end.
Those two players combined for five sacks and 39 pressures last season, a far cry from the 18 1/2 sacks and 90 pressures Bosa provided on the way to winning the award as the NFL's top defensive player.
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw said the team might need to utilize more aggressive pressure packages to make up for Bosa's absence if he doesn't sign soon but would prefer it not come to that.
"We hope the (front) office figures it out,” Greenlaw said. “We don’t really look at it as saying we’re missing somebody. It’s just next man up and you just play ball.”
The 49ers have had a strong history of rewarding their own stars, giving big extensions the past three summers to tight end George Kittle, linebacker Fred Warner and receiver Deebo Samuel.
But getting a deal done with Bosa has proved more complicated as he is expected to get more money than those three players after proving he can consistently be one of the top defensive ends in the league when healthy since being drafted second overall in 2019.
“You have to understand that guys, when you have these opportunities, you’ve got to do what’s best for yourself and your family,” safety Tashaun Gipson said. “Obviously having a guy like Nick on the field with us is huge. He’s the best defensive player in the National Football League. One of the best players in the league. So having him here is a huge, huge benefit. I think all 31 (other) teams would agree with that. But right now, we’ve just got to focus. Whenever he shows up, we know he’s going to be who he is.”
Bosa is currently under contract on the fifth-year option for $17.9 million this season. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is the only defensive player with a contract worth at least $30 million a year after signing a three-year, $95 million extension last offseason. Bosa could top that with his new deal.
Bosa led the NFL in sacks last season and has 43 sacks in 51 games. Replacing that production is almost impossible so Bosa's teammates are hoping it doesn't come to that.
"When Bosa gets here with that No. 97 on, once he’s here, it will be nice,” Hufanga said.
NOTES: Rookie K Jake Moody (quadriceps) didn't practice but did kick some short field goals on a side field. Moody said the injury started acting up two weeks ago and he is “slowly working back into it.” His status for Week 1 remains in question and San Francisco signed K Matthew Wright to the practice squad as insurance. ... TE George Kittle also was working out on the side. ... LB Dre Greenlaw (hamstring) and Hufanga (knee cyst) returned to practice and are on track to play this week. ... Gipson sat out as he deals with some "nicks and bruises ” but said he plans to practice the rest of the week and play Sunday.
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Josh Dubow, The Associated Press