When the 49ers defense takes the field Saturday night against the Texans in Houston, NaVorro Bowman will be back at inside linebacker.
While the Niners have gone through a tumultuous offseason – losing key veterans and getting a new coaching staff – Bowman’s return is perhaps one of the most positive stories heading into this 2015 season.
Before his knee injury in the NFC Championship Game in January of 2014, No. 53 was perhaps the NFL’s best inside linebacker. His smarts, range and strength in the middle of the field were missed during a disappointing 8-8 2014 season.
Now the three-time All-Pro is eager to get back on the field and feel what it’s like to hit and be hit, and new head coach Jim Tomsula assured Bay Area reporters after Tuesday’s practice that Bowman is on track to start in Houston.
“Right now, yes,” Tomsula said, when asked about Bowman starting Saturday. “I always want to reserve the right if he’s a little sore. But as of today, yes.”
During Tuesday’s practice, Bowman certainly looked like his old self – even if the brace he wears on his repaired left knee is new.
Bowman was all over the field making plays in scrimmages and drills.
On one play, he dropped into coverage and intercepted a Colin Kaepernick pass intended for wide receiver Jerome Simpson.
In 11-on-11 drills, there was one three-play sequence in which he made two consecutive stops on running backs, then dropped back and knocked away a pass.
As offensive lineman Marcus Martin noted recently to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, “He’s looking 100 percent out there. He’s rolling right now.”
Added Tomsula: “We are kind of taking the approach of ’Bo is back. We are just moving forward.”