Niners linebacker NaVorro Bowman made many big plays vs. the Seahawks Sunday until his fourth-quarter injury. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
The 49ers’ loss Sunday was tough both emotionally and physically.
Not only were the Niners devastated by their 23-17 defeat at the hands of the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game, but a handful of key players emerged with significant injuries.
Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman’s was the worst. He reportedly suffered both a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and also a medial collateral tear.
In addition, Pro Bowl left guard Mike Iupati suffered a broken left fibula, running back Frank Gore broke the ring finger on his right hand late in the game – and wasn’t on the field for the final few offensive snaps – and Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley dislocated a thumb in the first half, yet continued to play.
The injury to Iupati won’t require surgery, according to the 49ers, and the injuries to Gore and Staley will soon heal. Gore is expected to have surgery on the finger.
Bowman’s injuries, however, put his status in doubt for the start of the 2014 season.
According to Bill Williamson of ESPN.com, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh expects Bowman to play in 2014. But Harbaugh doesn’t have a timeline yet for Bowman’s recovery.
“He’s got healing ahead,” Harbaugh told Williamson. “He’s got grueling rehab ahead. That is not the way that you would’ve wanted or foreseen his offseason to be after coming off what many have talked about – and deservedly so – of a Defensive Player of the Year type of performance. Great year by NaVorro.”
But, Harbaugh is optimistic.
“Knowing what’s inside of NaVorro Bowman, I have great faith in the human agency of NaVorro Bowman to continue to be great,” he said.
Bowman’s 2013 season was terrific. He ranked fifth in the NFL with 145 tackles, had five sacks, two interceptions, six forced fumbles and seven passes defensed.
“Just wanna say Thank You for everyone’s support,” Bowman tweeted Monday. “It sucks not going to lie but I will get through this it’s in Gods hands now.”
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that Bowman will have surgery and could be back for Game 1 of next season.
But Harbaugh this week isn’t targeting a date for his return. It’s still too soon.
If Bowman can’t start the season, the Niners have a capable backup in Kevin Wilhoite, who has filled in for both Patrick Willis and Bowman. Wilhoite finished the NFC Championship Game Sunday after Bowman was hurt.
Bowman’s injury devastated many of his teammates, who were with him at the time and heard his screams after he was hit on the goal-line play in the fourth quarter.
“I could hear him yelling,” Willis told the Chronicle’s Al Saracevic. “I was just thinking, ‘Get out here and come help him.’ ”