The 49ers lost linebacker NaVorro Bowman to a torn ACL during their NFC Championship Game loss to the Seahawks and the team isn’t counting on his return in time for the start of next season.
Or the first two months of the season, for that matter. Coach Jim Harbaugh said from the combine on Thursday that the team isn’t ruling Bowman out of anything at this point, but that they aren’t expecting to have him in the lineup until somewhere around the midway point of the season.
“Realistically, halfway through the season [or] something like that would be more realistic,” Harbaugh said, via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “But I never underestimate NaVorro Bowman.”
If that outlook holds, there’s a good chance that Bowman will be on a similar plan to the one the team followed with wide receiver Michael Crabtree last season. Crabtree opened the year on the physically unable to perform list and remained there well into the season before returning to give the team a boost down the stretch.
An extended absence for Bowman would force the 49ers to look elsewhere for a linebacking partner for Patrick Willis in the middle of the defense. Michael Wilhoite, started in place of Willis when Willis missed time last season, and 2013 sixth-round pick Nick Moody are in-house options.