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COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Joey Bosa is hoping to return to form with the Los Angeles Chargers wearing a new, yet familiar, number.
The defensive end has switched from No. 99 to 97. Bosa wore that number at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Ohio State.
It is also a significant number for the Bosa family. John Bosa wore No. 97 for three seasons in the NFL and Nick Bosa, Joey's younger brother, will wear it for San Francisco after being the second overall pick in the April draft.
"I've been just meaning to do that for a while now. It's just a cool tradition. I'd like to keep it going," he said.
Bosa said he wanted to change numbers last year . until the NFL informed him that it would cost $500,000 due to a large inventory of his jerseys in stock. With the Chargers making the change to their powder blue jerseys as their primary home uniform, it means Bosa doesn't have to pay anything.
He is also hoping the new number helps bring about better health. Bosa missed the first nine games of last season due to a bruised left foot injury he suffered at the start of training camp. He still managed 5.5 sacks in seven regular-season games despite still dealing with pain from the injury.
Bosa said he was happy to avoid a Lisfranc-type surgery. He is still dealing with some soreness but that hasn't limited him physically.
"It's not causing a limp or anything. It's just there. It's just something I notice," he said. "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 missed the first four weeks of the Chargers offseason program while he was training in Florida but returned to the team facility this week for the start of organized team activities. Teams can have 10 practices of limited on-field work before the mandatory minicamp in three weeks.
"It's a good time to knock the rust off and get practicing with your hands and pass-rush," Bosa said. "If you miss all of this and you show up in camp, you're rusty then. You want to be rolling by that point."
The Chargers and Bosa are hoping he can return to the level he played his first two years, when he had 23 sacks, including an NFL-record 19 in his first 20 games. Bosa led the Chargers in 2017 in tackles (54) and sacks (12.5) en route to making the Pro Bowl for the first time.
Los Angeles was ninth in the league in total defense, but 22nd in sacks per pass play. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley could see those numbers increase with a healthy Bosa.
"You can count on Joey. He's going to come back in great shape. He looks awesome. He feels really good. To get him back on the field — just that brotherhood part where the guys are together again. I think that's important," Bradley said.
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