Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports



San Francisco 49ers All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman appeared in just four games in 2016 after a torn Achilles ended his season in October. The injury came nearly 13 months after Bowman's return from gruesome ACL and MCL tears.

Once again, Bowman is working hard to return to the football field and is looking to prove to critics that he can return to his former form.

"I've been full speed," Bowman said on Thursday. "I've done everything throughout minicamp. Those practices that we've had, those weren't just lackadaisical practices. We got after it. Coaches wanted to see what kind of players we had, who could practice without pads. I think that's harder than practicing with pads because you have to protect your teammates but also get your job done, and I've completed that. I've stood tall with all the workouts. So the Achilles is fine. I'm not worried about that. I'm just ready to put the pads back on and fly around."

Bowman's early showing during the 49ers' offseason made some wonder if the linebacker had lost a step or two since the injury.

Grant Cohn of the Press Democrat had the following to say in June during an interview on KNBR:

"During drills, he looks fine. He looks like the old NaVorro. But those are movements that he practices every day, things that he has been doing for years. When he gets into team drills and he has to react on the fly and move instantly the way his mind would tell him to do in the past."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee had the following to say about Bowman earlier this month:

"Some reports said Bowman looked slow and not fully recovered from Achilles surgery this spring. That may have been the case in the team's very first minicamp before the draft but not so as OTAs and later minicamps got underway. It was clear from talking to Bowman that the recovery from the Achilles wasn't nearly as daunting and grueling as that from reconstructive knee surgery two years earlier."


Through the first four games of last season, Bowman had 35 tackles, a sack, an interception, a forced fumble, and two passes defended. While his 251 snaps were a limited sample size, Bowman still ended up as the team's highest-graded player in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.

In 2015, his last full season, Bowman was in on 1,126 defensive snaps. During that time, Bowman compiled 154 tackles – which led the league – 2.5 sacks, and two passes defended.

Then there is rookie linebacker Reuben Foster, who on Wednesday was medically cleared to fully participate in training camp practices. Prior to that, he had been limited to individual drills as he recovered from surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. What does Bowman think about his new teammate?

"From what I've seen, he understands the game," Bowman said. "We got a chance to work out together several times and he's excited to be around me so I think that's the first step to building a relationship the way we are trying to get to. We've seen what he's done in college. We just want to transfer it here to the NFL. He's open ears, open to learning new things, and that's what we're going to need to get to that point. I really do think he'll have a successful career."