The next step in NaVorro Bowman‘s road to recovery isn’t more rehab or exercises designed to strengthen his surgically repaired knee. The next step is for the star linebacker to do what he does best: Hit someone on the football field.
Following a conditioning workout at Levi’s Stadium on Friday, the All Pro linebacker said the only hurdle standing before him was knowing whether or not he could still deliver those bone-jarring shots that made him a nightmare for opposing offenses going across midfield:
“That’s probably the only mental thing that’s on my mind, just if I could deliver a hit that I wanna deliver. And once I do that I’ll be ready.”
Though Bowman still has ways to go in his rehab, his tune was decidedly more optimistic than during OTAs, in which the linebacker stated that he was still feeling the effects of his knee both physically and mentally.
Bowman isn’t free to run wild just yet. On top of insisting he continue to wear his knee brace, the 49ers will also place him on a limited snap count for training camp. However, the linebacker’s progress has not evaded the notice of head coach Jim Tomsula:
“What I just saw there was, my gosh. He looked fantastic and then moving around he really looked good.”
Tomsula’s statement is sure to deliver relief to 49ers fans, who have lost three key defensive players over the offseason in DL Justin Smith and LBs Patrick Willis and Chris Borland. Bowman’s ability to overcome his injury is as vital to the team on the field as it is in the locker room.
The importance of his presence is not lost on the 27-year old star, who plans to take command of the 49ers defense by donning the green-dot helmet this year. Bowman said his drive for leadership helps him thrive on the field:
“I’m a leader, so my goal was to be first in everything. And I did that a few times, so I completed the whole test today. So I’m happy about the finish.”
Bowman will be commanding a team with lots of few new faces, compared to the 2013 team with which he last suited up. But Bowman isn’t worried about who is gone, instead he’s intrigued to see who steps into the shoes of those crucial former 49ers:
“There are a lot young guys on this team with a lot of talent. They were very experienced players, you can’t replace that, but in this game when a guy goes down, you have to step up. We lost those guys and it’s an opening for these young guys. I’m not saying these young guys can’t do it but I think they understand the shoes they have to fill and the type of football the 49ers play, and I’m excited to see it.”
Bowman will get a chance to clear his mental hurdle when the 49ers put on pads for the first time during Tuesday’s practice.