The 49ers will be without their star defensive player for yet another season, after an MRI confirmed a severe Achilles injury for ILB NaVorro Bowman. The news was announced via the team’s official Twitter account on Monday.
Bowman suffered the non-contact injury in the third quarter of yesterday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Bowman looked to have planted his foot on an attempt to drive forward in coverage against approaching receivers, and immediately went down on the turf.
He was helped on the field by the 49ers training staff before later leaving on a cart.
The injury marks the second severe injury Bowman has suffered in three seasons. The captain of the defense had just looked to regain his Pro Bowl form after a gruesome knee injury in the NFC Championship Game against Seattle shelved him for the entire 2014 season.
Through the first four games, Bowman is the clear defensive leader for San Francisco, notching a team-high 35 tackles, one interception, one sack and one forced fumble. According to Jeff Deeney of ProFootballFocus, Bowman ranked 5th amongst all inside linebackers against the run this year, while grading above average in coverage.
Bowman’s loss leaves a big hole in a struggling 49ers defense that is allowing 390 yards per game through their first four contests.
His absence was felt almost immediately after leaving the field yesterday, as the Cowboys attacked the vacant midfield of San Francisco by rushing Ezekiel Elliott on six of the following eight plays for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Bowman’s injury is exacerbated by the Week 2 loss of linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong, who started the season alongside Bowman before being placed on IR with a pectoral injury. San Francisco will now be forced to start reserves Michael Wilhoite, Gerald Hodges and Nick Bellore for the rest of the season.
Bowman’s loss leaves a hole in the locker room as well.
After signing a four-year, $44 million extension with the team earlier in August, Bowman spoke about how his role on the team transcended his on-field performance.
“It’s looking bright for us, and we do have young guys who have the potential to be superstars in this league also. So for them to lock me in, and understand that I’m committed to be a 49er for life, and to show other guys how we do it around here, is, I think, a perfect match.”
Bowman showed incredible resolve in overcoming his previous potential career-threatening injury, so it’s not far fetched to assume he’ll be able to bounce back from this one as well. But with a 1-3 record and a brutal schedule, this may have been a death blow to San Francisco.