Nearly 13 months after NaVorro Bowman's return to the football field from a torn ACL and MCL, the San Francisco 49ers' Pro Bowl and All-Pro inside linebacker has suffered another devastating setback. Bowman suffered a torn Achilles during the third quarter of the 49ers' 24-17 loss on Sunday to the Dallas Cowboys. It was a non-contact injury that will end Bowman's 2016 season.
Bowman went down while rushing the line of scrimmage and immediate grabbed at his left ankle. He received attention from the 49ers' medical staff and eventually walked off of the field with a limp and some help from team trainers. Bowman was later carted to the team's locker room. He was replaced in the game by Nick Bellore.
Bowman had an MRI today that revealed the severity of the injury. Through nearly four games, Bowman had 35 tackles, a sack, an interception, a forced fumble, and two passes defended. Last season, he was in on 1,126 defensive snaps. 627 of those were against the pass while 499 were against the run. During that time, Bowman compiled 154 tackles – which led the league – 2.5 sacks, and two passes defended.
Earlier today, head coach Chip Kelly stated that the 49ers could use a linebacker rotation in place of Bowman should he miss an extended amount of time – which is now the case. Michael Wilhoite, Gerald Hodges, Nick Bellore, and Shayne Skov will look to fill in at inside linebacker going forward.
Through four games this season, Bowman was the team's highest rated player according to advanced statistics site Pro Football Focus.
Following the 49ers' loss to the Cowboys on Sunday, there seemed to be an overall feeling among the players that Bowman would be lost for some time. "It stinks," said OT Joe Staley regarding the injury. "It's really, really bad. NaVorro is a captain for us, one of our team leaders. We're going to have to have a guy step up. That's a huge role to fill. You can't really replace a guy like NaVorro, but we have to have guys step up and be ready to go."
"That next guy has some big shoes to fill," said FS Eric Reid in the locker room following the game.
On August 3, Bowman agreed to a four-year, $44 million extension with the 49ers that will keep him with the team through the 2022 season, when he will be 34 years old. The deal included $20 million guaranteed. The total value of the new seven-year contract is $77 million.
"Over the last six years, NaVorro has become a cornerstone of our organization and securing his future in the Bay Area was a priority for us," said general manager Trent Baalke following the signing of the extension.
"I'm just excited to prove the doubters wrong and get back to the level I was at and get the respect that I deserve," Bowman said upon reporting to training camp in July. Despite his phenomenal 2015 season, Bowman came in at number 61 in NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2016. Bowman, clearly unhappy with the ranking, called the list "totally bogus" and criticized the legitimacy of the ranking.
Despite leading the league in tackles, Bowman admitted to not being at 100-percent in 2015. "I feel great," Bowman said during this past offseason. "Adding on days on top of days. I feel it sometimes, but it's nowhere near what I went through last year with the constant attention I had to put on it. This year, I'm able to wake up and ride. That's definitely a better thing that it was last year."