Programming note: 49ers Insider Matt Maiocco is on the ground in Indianapolis to cover the NFL Combine. Check back for his coverage all weekend and get the full report on SportsNet Central every night at 6 and 10:30 p.m.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The most realistic return for 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who underwent knee surgery on Feb. 4, is in the middle of the season, coach Jim Harbaugh said Thursday.
“I wouldn’t count NaVorro Bowman out of anything,” Harbaugh said at the NFL Scouting Combine when asked if it’s possible Bowman could be ready for the start of the regular season.
“He’s a supreme athlete, a world-class athlete among world-class athletes. The way he moves, his strength, his powers of healing. I wouldn’t count him out of anything. Realistically, halfway through the season, something like that would be more realistic. But I never underestimate NaVorro Bowman.”
Bowman will assuredly be placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list at the start of training camp in late-July. Then, it appears he would be a strong candidate to spend the first six weeks of the regular season on the PUP list before the possibility of being activated.
When asked if the 49ers would be inclined to sit out Bowman for a period of time even after he's medically cleared, Harbaugh answered, "We’re going to make sure in his case, yes. No question about it. We’ll take good care of NaVorro Bowman. That would be the smart thing, wouldn’t it?"
Bowman sustained tears to the ACL and MCL in his left knee on a play in which he stripped Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse of the football at the goal line in the NFC Championship game. Bowman went to the ground clutching the football. However, the officials ruled that Marshawn Lynch made the recovery.
“The most striking thing is the amount of people who have come up to me and commented how inspired they were by NaVorro Bowman – the way he hung onto the ball,” Harbaugh said. “People were saying he knew he got hit, you could see his face grimace and he wasn’t going to let his team down and let the ball come loose.”
Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean, Harbaugh’s brother in law, recently showed the video of Bowman to his team as inspiration, Harbaugh said.