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February 20, 2014
Harbaugh: Midseason return most realistic scenario for Bowman

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Recent footage of NaVorro Bowman's rehabilitation from a torn ACL shows the 49ers' inside linebacker hard at work in the early stages of his recovery. Is it possible he can return in time for the first game of the season?

"I wouldn't count NaVorro Bowman out of anything," Jim Harbaugh said today. "He's a supreme athlete, a world-class athlete among world-class athletes. The way he moves, his strength, his powers of healing. I wouldn't count him out of anything."

Still, Harbaugh said the most realistic scenario for Bowman's recovery may be to put him on the physically-unable-to-perform list, as was the case with Michael Crabtree last year, and bring him back at some point during the season.

"Realistically, halfway through the season (or) something like that would be more realistic," he said. "But I never underestimate NaVorro Bowman."

If the 49ers are eying a midseason return, they promise to have a good training-camp competition among Michael Wilhoite, 2013 draft pick Nick Moody and whoever else they bring in this offseason at inside linebacker. Wilhoite filled in well for another inside linebacker, Patrick Willis, when he was injured early in 2013.

Bowman suffered a gruesome tear to his left ACL and MCL when, while stripping the ball from Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse in the NFC Championship game, Kearse was driven into Bowman's leg. The knee was bent at an awkward angle and he had surgery to repair it earlier this month. The prognosis for such an injury is 6-8 months, but Harbaugh said the 49ers might take their time with Bowman, their best defensive player in 2013, even when he's medically cleared to play.

"We'll take good care of NaVorro Bowman," he said. "That would be the smart thing, wouldn't it?"

Harbaugh said a number of people - from fans to fellow coaches - have approached him in recent weeks to say how heroic it was for Bowman to hang onto the football while suffering the grisly injury. His brother in law, Tom Crean, even showed the footage to his Indiana basketball team for inspiration.

Said Harbaugh: "People were saying he knew he got hit, you could see his face grimace and he wasn't going to let his team down and let the ball come loose."

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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