Appearing on ESPN's SportsCenter on Thursday, the 25-year-old Bowman expressed optimism that he'll be ready to play by the middle of the upcoming 2014 NFL season, via ESPN reporter Bill Williamson on Twitter:
In addition to discussing his recovery timetable, Bowman talked about his progress during the SportsCenter interview (h/t CBS Sports NFL writer Will Brinson):
Feeling good, feeling good. I'm blessed to be walking. I put the hard work in already, playing through the pain, trying to get the knee straight. But it's coming along...I hope to be ready when they expect me to be ready. They're not going to rush me. Probably about the middle of the season.
Bowman also talked to SportsCenter about the incident that injured his knee (h/t Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith):
“I knew the position I was in. As soon as my knee went in, I felt a hot flame in my knee and I told the doc, ‘It’s torn,’” Bowman said.
“I know it’s already popped out,” Bowman said, describing his thoughts about his knee as he was on the ground. “Rolling over, trying to hold the ball, just hoping that they give us the ball, because I know exactly what just happened — I tore my knee and I’ve got the ball in my hand. So knowing we didn’t get the ball, I just felt like it wasn’t worth it, and I could have let the ball go and maybe saved my knee.”
Two days before appearing on SportsCenter, Bowman made an appearance at the 49ers' facility, smiling and posing with teammates and head coach Jim Harbaugh, per the team's official Twitter account:
Bowman's gruesome injury occurred on a controversial goal-line fumble in San Francisco's 23-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Jan. 19 when a player fell into his leg. Bowman appeared to have recovered the loose ball, but San Francisco was unable to challenge the call on the field. A rule change agreed on at the NFL owners' meeting last month means that those plays will be reviewable from now on.
Although the 49ers' defense is among the best in the league, ranking toward the top year after year, San Francisco will surely miss Bowman's presence over the first half of the season.
As ESPN's Numbers Never Lie on Twitter points out, the two-time Pro Bowl selection has been an unstoppable force over the past three seasons since his rookie year in 2010:
Last season, Bowman recorded a career-high 120 total tackles, five sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions while leading the league's third-best scoring defense.
Up until last January, durability had been one of Bowman's top attributes. A former third-round draft pick out of Penn State in 2010, Bowman has yet to miss a single NFL game and has started 49 consecutive regular-season games since Week 17 of his rookie season.
It remains to be seen whether Bowman will be the same dominant defender he's always been when he finally returns to the field next fall. However, his age and durability suggest he'll bounce back relatively quickly and return to playing at a high level.
The loss is sure to haunt Harbaugh and the 49ers through the first few weeks of the 2014 campaign, but fortunately, Bowman projects to return to the lineup in time for the playoff push and, more importantly, the playoffs.
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